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EFL: Promotion, relegation will remain

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The English Football League (EFL) have released details on how they plan to play out the Championship, League One and League Two campaigns as promotion and relegation will continue between the second and fifth tiers of English soccer.

League Two had previously asked for relegation to be removed by the governing body of the second to fourth tiers has dismissed that request.

The EFL have accepted that it may not be possible to finish the season in the lower leagues and if that is the decision the final table will be determined on unweighted points per game, with promotion and relegation kept in place and a four-team playoff will decide the final team promoted from each division.

Clubs in each league will vote next week on the guidelines, which only need a simple 51 percent majority to be ratified.

After separate leagues met in recent weeks to discuss options, League Two and National League clubs have decided to end their respective seasons, while League One clubs cannot agree on the next step and Championship clubs plan to restart their campaign alongside the Premier League in June.

If points per game is used in League One and League Two, here’s how the top and bottom of the tables will look:

League One
1. Coventry City (promoted automatically)
2. Rotherham (promoted automatically)
3. Wycombe (playoffs)
4. Oxford (playoffs)
5. Portsmouth (playoffs)
6. Fleetwood (playoffs)

21. Tranmere (relegated to League Two)
22. Southend (relegated to League Two)
23. Bolton (relegated to League Two)

League Two
1. Crewe (promoted automatically)
2. Swindon (promoted automatically)
3. Plymouth (promoted automatically)
4. Exeter (playoffs)
5. Cheltenham (playoffs)
6. Colchester (playoffs)
7. Northampton (playoffs)

24. Stevenage (relegated to National League)

Several clubs across the lower leagues in England are in a dire financial situation due to the coronavirus pandemic and curtailing the season would release much-needed funds, as they will not be able to play in safe environments and afford to following the safety and testing protocols needed. However, there is a real concern that the lower leagues may not be able to start the 2020-21 campaign due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Below is a look at the statement in full from the EFL, as they say there is “strong desire to remain as faithful as possible to the Regulations and ensure there is consistency in the approach adopted across the EFL in all divisions.

1. Resuming the 2019/20 season with the existing format remains the most appropriate course of action from a sporting integrity perspective, but the Board accepts there are circumstances that may lead to curtailment (as has been demonstrated with League Two) or a situation subsequently transpires whereby the season is unable to conclude.

2. This means that, in the event of an early curtailment:

Final divisional placings should be determined on unweighted points per game (if required).
b. Promotion and relegation should be retained.
c. Play-Offs should be played in all circumstances but should not be extended (beyond four teams).

3. If a scenario arises whereby the Play-Offs cannot be played, the EFL Board will determine the appropriate course of action.

4. The Board considers that the majority required to curtail the 2019/20 season in any division should be 51%. Determining whether or not to curtail the season is a decision for each division to take.

5. The principle of relegation across all three divisions is integral to the integrity of the pyramid, from the Premier League down to the National League, provided we have assurances that the National League will start season 2020/21 (i.e. the relegated Club in League Two has somewhere to play).

6. Any regulatory solution should be relevant and specific to the current challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and reach a conclusion that is clear and effective with the impact and justifications easy for all stakeholders to understand.

League Two over, League One fail to agree end to season

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Clubs from League One and League Two (the third and fourth tiers respectively) have held meetings to vote on the 2019-20 season and one league is over, while the other is not.

League Two clubs have voted unanimously to end the 2019-20 season now as a points-per-game model was used to finalize the table. They also agreed to that the top three teams will be promoted to League One, the League Two playoffs will still take place, and no teams will be relegated to the National League.

That decision is pending EFL and English FA approval but the EFL released a statement confirming League Two want to end the season, and suggested an unweighted points per game model should be used.

“In the event of a curtailment of the season, the EFL Board outlined how this could be addressed through a framework that includes maintaining the principle of promotion and relegation, league tables to be determined via unweighted points per game (PPG) and playoffs to remain in every division to determine the final promotion place. The EFL Board, whose aspiration has always been to conclude the 2019/20 season by completing the remaining fixtures, has previously stated that any decision on how to conclude the season is a matter for Clubs to determine in their respective divisions.”

As for League One, clubs could not agree on ending the season and they will meet again on Monday for another vote. The EFL added that League One clubs agreed they need to find “innovative and creative solutions” to help “decisions to be taken quickly.”

Six League One clubs (Sunderland, Portsmouth, Ipswich Town, Peterborough, Oxford and Fleetwood Town) released a statement on Thursday stating they wanted to finish the season no matter what.

However, the harsh reality is that in the lower leagues of English soccer clubs heavy rely on ticket revenue to operate and with no fans allowed, there is no way to make a return financially viable in the near future. Harry Kane agreed to sponsor Leyton Orient’s jerseys next season to help out and we will be seeing a lot more of that to help these teams in dire financial situations.

Also, it is believed the financial implications of paying for widespread COVID-19 tests is something that is beyond both League One and League Two.

It is expected that the playoffs could take place in both League One and League Two to decide the final promotion place in each league but that also has to be ratified by the EFL and FA and it also depends on what happens in the Championship and National League (fifth tier) who have yet to decide the outcome of the 2019-20 season.

The Premier League have already released over $160 million to the lower leagues to help them survive the suspension during the coronavirus pandemic.

EFL warns ‘suitable testing’ needed for return

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The English Football League (EFL) has released a statement about a possible return to action and says ‘suitable testing’ is needed before they can think about games taking place in the Championship, League One and League Two.

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Amid reports that the Premier League could return as early as June, the EFL have suggested a possible return is a long way off as widespread testing for front-line workers in the UK should come first during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Clearly, before any return to football can take place, suitable testing arrangements for participants must be in place and this is core to our current planning, as is ensuring there is absolutely no negative impact on the country’s front-line workers, the emergency services, league and club staff members.”

The EFL added they will “consider the latest medical information and evidence from both in the UK and abroad, particularly around the viability and accessibility of the various COVID-19 tests that are currently available.”

With all leagues in the UK canceled below the fourth tier, there is growing concern about the financial health of the 72 professional teams spread across the Championship, League One and League Two. The EFL and Premier League are in constant contact with the UK government about the fast-moving situation.

The EFL are determined to finish those campaigns as promotion and relegation is still to be decided but there is some confusion if relegation from League Two and promotion from the National League (fifth tier) will happen this season due to the latter having its season canceled.

When it comes to the Premier League, like the EFL they hope to complete the rest of the season and there needs to be an agreement between both parties. The Premier League and EFL would both surely have to continue instead of one or the other.

If the Premier League season was canceled, then the EFL season would follow suit as Championship sides battling for promotion to the Premier League would have no point to continue the season.

This EFL statement makes one thing very clear: the soccer authorities in England have their priorities correct and will only consider returning behind closed doors when it is safe for them to do so and without hindering the medical effort.

England’s National League votes to end season

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The National League, which makes up England’s fifth and sixth tiers of soccer, announced on Wednesday that its member clubs have voted to end the 2019-20 season and cancel all remaining fixtures.

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90 percent of the leagues’ clubs supported the a motion to end the season as things stood when play was belatedly suspended on March 16. Some clubs has as few as seven games remaining, while games in hand left others with as many as 12.

Various options concerning promotion and relegation are “under careful and timely consideration,” as the National League sits just one level below the English Football League. Barrow sits top of the National League, four points clear of second-place Harrogate, at the season’s conclusion. Wealdstone and York top the National League South and North leagues, respectively.

[ MORE: Tottenham transform stadium into vital NHS testing facility ]

2019-20 records were expunged for all clubs below the National League, from the seventh tier downward, earlier this month.

A statement from the League read as follows:

In the knowledge that the ordinary resolution has passed, the League’s Board has chosen to communicate the decision now and before the last few responses are received, which will not change the outcome, to enable clubs to make business decisions with greater clarity as soon as possible.

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.