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EFL letter recommends clubs prepare for return ‘at short notice’

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The English Football League has sent a letter to all clubs advising they return to training in mid-May and prepare for a return to play from the coronavirus shutdown at what the EFL described as “relatively short notice.”

The letter from EFL chairman Rick Parry, which was sent to all 72 clubs before it was obtained by The Independent and shared by the BBC, notes that while the EFL does not have the power to enforce training schedules for clubs, it interestingly advises that clubs may suffer public relations damage should they return to training earlier than the advised May 16 date. The letter then addresses a rumored start date in early June without confirming or denying the viability of that date.

“By advising a mid-May return to training,” the letter reads, “it has inevitably led to speculation that the season will recommence on June 6 – three weeks later. No date has been discussed and we continue to work with the government and health authorities to help identify the date where we can resume our season. Our planning needs to be agile enough to allow us to be as prepared as possible for a return at relatively short notice.”

The letter is intentionally vague, leaving room for multiple possibilities, but does admit that “these [scenarios] are expected to take further shape over the course of the next two weeks and clubs will receive an appropriate briefing once these plans are at an advanced stage.”

The letter also invites clubs to share their thoughts and possibilities as the EFL notes “collaboration is key to achieving success in these challenging times.” It notes that many clubs have already expressed their thoughts about playing behind closed doors, admitting that is a very likely possibility for when the games recommence.

The Premier League is likely to follow suit shortly after videoconferencing Friday with all 20 clubs to discuss plans for the next few months and how to potentially return to play.

While it was not discussed in the letter openly, The Telegraph reported Friday morning that the EFL is considering its return to play using a limited number of Championship grounds – more specifically 10 stadiums – while closed-door games remain at the forefront.

Premier League issues update as talks continue

Premier League statement
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The Premier League joined three other influential and power bodies to issue a statement regarding a Wednesday meeting on the future of the 2019/20 season.

The statement says that the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), the Premier League, the English Football League, and the League Managers Association (LMA) met and “shared a constructive meeting regarding the challenges facing the game as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Here’s the meat of the statement, which says the groups will continue to meet over the next 48 hours to discuss vital topics to the soccer world:

The meeting reiterated that the overriding priority is the health and wellbeing of the nation – including that of players, coaches, managers, club staff and supporters – and everyone agreed football must only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

No decisions were taken today, with discussions set to continue in the next 48 hours with a focus on several high-profile matters, including player wages and the resumption of the 2019/20 season.

To be a fly on the wall! There are so many considerations here, let alone the serious health concerns of players, coaches, staffers, and more. Stay tuned.

Earlier Wednesday, UEFA formally postponed all events in June.

Report: Bolton takeover talks break down

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Bolton Wanderers are in an even more alarming financial position, after reports of potential owner Laurence Bassini missing a deadline on Monday to provide proof of his financial capital.

Bolton’s current owner Ken Anderson made the deadline before the weekend, a weekend which saw Bolton’s match against Brentford postponed as the players are refusing to play due to not having been paid their wages last month. But now, per The Times, it looks as though Bassini won’t become the club’s new owner after all, putting the club in a precarious state.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

It’s a sad state of affairs for Bolton, a once-proud club that was a mid-table side in the Premier League less than a decade ago. The club featured Stuart Holden and later Tim Ream, cementing its American connections, but has now come on very hard times. Relegation has already been confirmed, with the club in 23rd place in the Championship, but it could go into administration or cease to be a club if the team continues to fail to pay its players and staff.

Over the weekend, it was reported that the Championship is compelling Bolton to complete its final two matches against Brentford and Nottingham Forest, even if the first team players refuse to play. That could mean potentially using youth players in what would be a mockery of the game, pitting boys against men because of the league’s bylaws and club’s inability to pay wages that were promised contractually.

QPR to pay $55 Million Financial Fair Play penalty

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The other shoe finally dropped in the English Football League’s case against Queens Park Rangers regarding Financial Fair Play.

QPR on Friday agreed to pay a $55 million fine to the EFL, with payments spread out over the next ten years, for breaching Financial Fair Play rules in 2014 as the club made its push to return to the Premier League. QPR also agreed to pay all the court costs – as part of the $55 million settlement – and are banned from signing new players in the January 2019 transfer window.

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Ahead of the 2013-2014 season, QPR spent lavishly, signing the likes of Charlie Austin, Matt Phillips and Karl Henry, in addition to a first-team squad that already included Loic Remy, Ji-Sung Park and Adel Taraabt (all three would go out on loan). Ultimately, QPR’s nearly $100 million wage bill represented 195 percent of of the club’s revenue. Over a three-year period, Financial Fair Play regulations in the Championship state a team cannot lose more than $17 million per season.

Of course, while Financial Fair Play rules were put into place to keep clubs from overspending and harming their future, if QPR’s board and group of owners could afford to write off the costs and cover it from their other business assets, then as long as the club is in good shape, perhaps there shouldn’t have been a penalty.

In any case, it was probably worth it for QPR. Austin’s 18 goals helped drive QPR back into the Premier League, and despite lasting one season, the television and parachute payments are still keeping the club afloat.

Rotherham gains promotion to Championship

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After one season down in League One, the Millers are returning to the Sky Bet Championship in 2018/19.

[ MORE: Tammy Abraham rescues England in Toulon opener ]

Rotherham United defeated Shrewsbury Town, 2-1, in extra time on Sunday at Wembley Stadium to reach the Championship.

Regulation wasn’t enough to decide the League One playoff final, but Richard Wood brace ensured his side, Rotherham, would reach the English second division ahead of the 2018/19 season.

Wood did superbly to volley home his squad’s second goal in the first half of extra time, after a brilliant Joe Newell set piece curled into the path of the defender.

Shrewsbury equalized around the hour mark when Alex Rodman calmly placed the ball beyond goalkeeper Marek Rodak from close ranger after a perfectly-executed set piece that caught the Millers off guard.

The first half went largely in favor Rotherham though, having taken the lead in the 32nd minute through Wood’s header to the bottom left corner.

The lead should have been larger though heading into halftime, but David Ball’s early penalty kick was saved by Shrews keeper Dean Henderson in the ninth minute to keep the match scoreless at the time.