League Two

Salary cap
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League One, League Two clubs vote to introduce salary cap

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Clubs in League One and League Two have voted to introduce a salary cap, “effectively immediately.”

[ MORE: Reports: Arsenal nearing agreement on new Aubameyang contract ]

Under the agreed proposal, clubs in England’s third tier, League One, will be allowed to spend up to $3.25 million (£2.5 million) per season on player salaries, while League Two sides will be limited at $2 million (£1.5 million).

The salary cap is, at least in theory, expected to create greater sustainability for lower-division clubs after a number of sides recently relegated from the Premier League and/or the Championship have endured great financial hardship and, in some cases, received hefty punishments for failing to maintain certain financial standards.

According to Sky Sports, discussions about a potential salary cap began back in March, prior to the shutdown, and canceling of the remainder, of the League One and League Two seasons due to COVID-19.

When calculating total salary spending, the salary cap will include not only weekly wages paid to players, but also bonuses, agent fees and image rights, among other mechanisms by which clubs have spent and — again, in far too many cases — lost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in recent years.

Per the English Football League, “any contract entered into on or prior to today’s vote will be capped at an agreed divisional average until that contract expires,” meaning clubs will not be forced to immediately shed contracts in order to comply with the newly implemented rule.

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From the EFL’s statement, which can be read in full here, released shortly after the vote:

“The term ‘salary cap’ is an emotive one, creating the impression of a restrictive measure but we are clear in our view that this is neither the objective nor the likely effect of these changes to EFL Regulations. The financial impact of COVID-19 will be profound for EFL Clubs and today’s vote will help ensure Clubs cannot extend themselves to the point that could cause financial instability.

“Over the last two weeks the discussions amongst Clubs in both Leagues One and Two have been healthy and constructive, allowing us to reach a clear consensus today and I am pleased that the Clubs have determined to adopt the new approach. We will now work with all Clubs, the PFA and, where appropriate, other stakeholders to implement the new rules and continue our efforts to bring long-term sustainability to the EFL.

WATCH: Ex-Arsenal man Bramall scores excellent free kick

Colchester United playoff recap
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Oh, the physics!

Colchester United has a 1-0 lead after the first leg of its League Two playoff tie with Exeter City on Cohen Bramall’s aesthetically-pleasing free kick at Colchester Community Stadium on Thursday.

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The artist of the goal was Cohen Bramall, the 24-year-old who left Arsenal for the U’s last summer. The left back now has two goals and five assists on the season.

The beauty of the free kick is Bramall shaping like he’s going to spin a right-footed cross into the mixer, instead smashing a left-footed shot that zips inside the near post.

The second leg is Monday at Exeter’s St. James Park. The winner of the tie between fifth-place Exeter and sixth-place Colchester meets the winner of Northampton Town and Cheltenham Town for the right to join League One.

PHOTOS: Shaq cardboard cutout to cheer on Northampton Town

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Northampton Town will have at least one fan in the stand when they take place in the League Two playoffs next week, with NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal present in the stands in cardboard cutout form.

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Shaq is a fan of the fourth-tier English side and with the League Two regular-season ended in a vote last week, the playoffs will now commence to decide which teams will be promoted to League One.

Why does Shaq support Northampton? Well, he owns a radio station with Northampton Town chairman Kelvin Thomas, so there’s that.

Northampton host Cheltenham Town on June 18 in the first leg of their playoff semifinal and the Cobblers released a photo of the Shaq cardboard cutout which will be in the stands at the Sixfields Stadium.

The winner of that home and away playoff series will face the winner of Exeter City v Colchester United at Wembley in the League Two playoff final on June 29.

Below is how you can get involved and have a cardboard cutout of yourself in the stand for the big League Two playoff semifinal first leg next week.

Who knows, maybe you’ll be sat next to Shaq cheering on the Cobblers?

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.