With the corona virus pandemic sweeping the globe and bringing life as we know if to a standstill, League One, as with most of world football, has ground to a halt. But what are the likely scenarios to complete the season? We discussed with fans from other League One clubs about each potential scenario and how it would affect their team, with Gillingham’s GillsInTheBlood, Ipswich’s Chris Rand and Rotherham’s Hannn_95x joining our discussion.
The first option we looked at was simply playing behind closed doors. This would obviously have huge financial repercussions on a league where a large proportion of funding is gained through ticket sales and other match day spending. Earlier this week this was proposed by the EFL to complete all remaining fixtures in 56 days, with Posh having nine league games remaining plus potentially (hopefully) three play-off matches. Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony also revealed in an interview last week (Friday 10th April) that he has “no problem with the plan”, also stating “clubs will lose money from not having home attendances but it wouldn’t be as catastrophic as losing the TV and sponsor money as well”. This has been met with largely positive views from the footballing community so we asked our guests for their opinions.
Gillsintheblood “Playing behind closed doors obviously becomes an option once players are allowed to return to training in groups as it gives the season the best chance of being completed. Financially however it isn’t the best option because it means clubs at lower levels are all missing out on gate receipt money, which a lot of them rely on in order to be sufficient”
Chris Rand “I put the dilemma to one of our more cerebral Ipswich fans’ discussion groups. The reaction was mixed, and torn between what might be fair, what might be practical, what might benefit Ipswich, and what might avoid giving Norwich another season of Premier League riches!”
“I think completing this season under the rules agreed at the start is more important than what happens next season, even if that meant finishing it behind closed doors in a compressed ‘tournament-style’ period.”
Hannn_95x “Playing behind close doors for us could be an option and would get the season finished possibly which would be good and fair. However for the fans I think they really would miss this and the club may lose income from the fans as they could not attend”
We next looked at delaying the restart of the season until it was deemed safe to resume with fans in attendance, however when that could possibly be is completely unknown by anyone. Some reports suggesting social distancing could be implemented well into the autumn and the Welsh health minister said last Thursday (9th April) that the coronavirus lockdown will remain for “several more weeks at the very least”. And throw into the mix potentially scraping the play-offs to free up calendar space for the start of the 2020/21 campaign, with either only the automatic promotion places going up or also having third place receiving automatic promotion into the Championship.
Hannn_95x “I think scrapping the play offs/relegation would be unfair. It is a tough one as there are so many teams that could miss out if they did that, but would be good for us to go up automatically as we are second”
Gillsintheblood “I think the best step the powers that be have made so far is declaring that the season can run indefinitely. It’s simply the fairest way to conclude a campaign that is 80% completed already. If we have to wait a few weeks/months then so be it. The priority though, for me, has to be finishing a season that’s already started rather than worrying about when a new one can start.”
Chris Rand “Scrapping the playoffs might be an acceptable truncation of the season, with the playoff winner’s place going directly to the third-placed team. Possibly finish the season in the autumn, then move football to a February to November season, which many have dreamed of for a long time. This solves the winter break issue and fits in nicely with the December 2022 World Cup. Some sort of Duckworth-Lewis type method might be put in the league rules for future seasons, in case a similar situation occurred.”
What about voiding the 2019/20 season altogether? This suggestion seems to be the preferred option for clubs in relegation spots plus on the blue half of Merseyside, but is it fair on teams in the mix for titles and promotion?
Gillsintheblood “I can understand why it’s being discussed as a potential option, but we’re around 80% through this campaign and I’m sure they’ll be considerable ramifications if it’s decided the season simply gets wiped from history. Once you do that you then, in my opinion, you somewhat taint the integrity of competition forever. Plus I can envisage plenty of clubs attempting to take some sort of legal action, especially those on the verge of winning titles/promotion.”
Chris Rand “The feeling was that so much of the season has passed that it would be simply wrong for it to count for nothing. It would also leave the EFL and the clubs exposed to too big a loss of sponsorship and TV money.”
Hannn_95x “It would be gutting if they voided it after so much hard work from all the teams, and especially for us as we are second!”
Lastly we looked at declaring the league as it currently stands, which would leave Coventry City and Rotherham being promoted, and if third place was to be given automatic promotion this would go to Oxford United ahead of Portsmouth ad Fleetwood on goal difference. Posh would miss out by one point! At the other end Bolton, Southend and Tranmere would slide into the fourth tier.
Hannn_95x “I don’t know how they would determine the play offs, maybe 3rd to go up, but with so many teams in the play offs in all the leagues it would be a bit unfair really! I think they should finish the season as it is”
Gillsintheblood “Doing this would for me open up multiple cans of worms. How can you determine a campaign done when it simply isn’t. Teams with games in hand would surely go down the legal route with this method as well. Points per game averages was again discussed on social media, as was giving points to sides for their remaining games based on results of the reverse fixtures against the same teams, but again for me that’s simply undermining the integrity of the competition.”
“It’s an unprecedented and impossible situation for all involved on the face of it, so the only real option for me is to let the season run for as long as need be so that it reaches a natural conclusion whenever that may be.”
Chris Rand “For Ipswich, fans seem to agree that just getting to next season as quickly as possible would be ideal, as it’s over for us anyway! Other ideas suggested included ignoring the second half of the season (so the table would be judged on just the first match against each of the other teams), or using a “pools panel” to give scores to the unplayed matches.”
How the EFL decide on a fair but also practical way of resolving the season in circumstances never before seen in peacetime is up in the air. But I’m sure we can all agree that we simply miss football, seeing our team week in week out and wish to go back to watching the beautiful game as soon as it is safe to do so with as many people safe and healthy as possible.
Get involved in the comments below or on our social media platforms about how you feel the season should be completed. Mist importantly stay safe and well through this difficult period.