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League One, League Two over; France cancel relegation

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There has been some clarification in leagues across Europe as both League One and League Two in England have voted to end their 2019-20 season, while relegation has been canceled in the top two tiers of France, as leagues sort out issues amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Focusing on England first, the remaining games in League One and League Two have both been canceled as clubs voted to use a points-per-game system to determine the final table. Per a statement, the English Football League (EFL) said clubs “voted by an overwhelming majority to formally end” the 2019-20 season.

The meeting of the EFL clubs also decided that playoffs in the third and fourth tiers will take place, with promotion and relegation staying in place.

In League One, Coventry City are the champions and will be promoted alongside Rotherham United, while Oxford United will play Portsmouth and Wycombe Wanderers will play Fleetwood Town in the playoffs for a place in the Championship. Peterborough dropped out of the playoffs due to the points-per-game system used. Tranmere Rovers, Southend United and Bolton Wanderers will be relegated to League Two.

In League Two, Swindon Town have been named champions with Crewe Alexandra and Plymouth Argyle also promoted automatically. Cheltenham will play Northampton and Exeter will play Colchester for a place in the playoff final at Wembley, with the first legs on June 18 and the second legs on June 22. The League Two playoff final will be played at an empty Wembley Stadium on June 29.

Relegation from League Two has yet to be confirmed as Stevenage Town sit bottom of the table, but are three points from safety and the team above them, Macclesfield Town, are currently under investigation for misconduct when it comes to not paying players and they could receive a further points deduction which could move them into the relegation zone. The EFL have said that “due to ongoing disciplinary matters, the final placings cannot yet be confirmed” in League Two.

In France, a legal battle to try and restart the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 campaigns was quashed but the highest court in France has agreed that relegation from the top two tiers should be canceled, for now.

That means Amiens and Toulouse will not be relegated to Ligue 2 and now the governing body of the French league will have to decide if promotion to Ligue 1 or Ligue 2 will be halted or if both leagues will be larger for the 2020-21 season.

France’s top two divisions were ended in April as a points-per-game system was used to determine the final table as Paris Saint-Germain were awarded the Ligue 1 title. Lyon led a host of clubs who fought the decision and wanted the 2019-20 season to restart, but the original decision will stand as the French government had banned sporting events, even in empty stadiums, until September 1 at the earliest.

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.

PFA explains position as players urged to take pay cuts

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The Professional Footballers Association is explaining why it has not yet accepted deferred pay cuts during the coronavirus suspension, and the English government is not withholding its opinion.

As non-playing staff accept furloughs or worse across the tiers of English football and players in other European nations accept pay cuts, the PFA has not found an arrangement to its liking.

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Health secretary Matthew Hancock addressed the situation in his daily public briefing.

From Sky Sports:

“Given the sacrifices people are making, including some of my colleagues in the NHS, who have made the ultimate sacrifice and gone into work and caught the disease and have sadly died, I think the first thing Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution; take a pay cut and play their part.”

That’s a heavy statement, one that surely resonates with all.

The PFA issued a post on its site that runs up nearly 1000 words on its position, stating that a big part of its concern is representing League One and League Two players. Those members do not receive the massive pay packets of PL stars.

Basically, what the PFA is requesting is time to make an educated decision considering the books and futures of every club are different. They’d like to see those books to make sure that if players are making a sacrifice that shareholders are as well.

From ThePFA.com:

We fully accept that players will have to be flexible and share the financial burden of the COVID-19 outbreak in order to secure the long-term future of their own club and indeed the wider game. Our advice going out to players at this point reflects that expectation.

In addition, the PFA is also expecting to contribute financially to any solutions agreed upon.

Like everyone else in the country, we are trying to deal with a situation that has never been faced. Our spirits have been lifted seeing communities come together to support each other. We have been proud to see many of our own members and clubs step up to support the NHS, to help children who would usually benefit from free school meals, donating to food banks and other charitable donations to those affected by this crisis. Much of this has been done privately and without publicity.

Obviously there will be a resolution to this soon, but it’s a complex and layered situation. Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe became the first PL boss to take a voluntary pay cut on Wednesday, with Brighton’s Graham Potter following suit.

Portsmouth players test positive for coronavirus

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Four players from English side Portsmouth have tested positive for coronavirus, Pompey have announced.

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The entire Pompey squad and staff were tested after their FA Cup last 16 defeat at home to Arsenal on March 2, as Arsenal’s manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus 10 days later and the entire Gunners playing squad and staff were placed into self-isolation.

In a statement released by the League One club they confirmed James Bolton, Andy Cannon, Sean Raggett and Haji Mnoga have coronavirus.

“They are all self-isolating in accordance with government guidelines and will continue to follow medical advice. The club have also notified Public Health England. All players and first team staff were tested earlier in the week and we are still awaiting approximately half of the results of these tests.

“Chief executive Mark Catlin said: ‘I received the news last night and immediately spoke to Kenny [Jackett] and head physio Bobby Bacic. Kenny and I then spoke to all three players. Football is not immune from this virus and I can assure you that it only really hits home when those that you know contract it. All three players were in good spirits and perfectly calm – showing mild or no symptoms – and are looking forward to overcoming it as quickly as possible.’

Bolton, Cannon and Raggett were in the squad to play against Arsenal in the FA Cup but there is no suggestion that that is when they caught the virus. The same trip have all played in Portsmouth’s two league games since their defeat against Arsenal, as they lost at Peterborough and drew with Fleetwood Town at home.

Portsmouth are the latest team to be hit by the spread of coronavirus as Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi has tested positive, plus multiple players from Alaves in Spain, plus Sampdoria and Juventus in Italy have also tested positive for COVID-19.