The English Football League is at a standstill as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has an unprecedented impact on the sporting world.
The EFL is on hold with games around the country postponed for a number of weeks.
Teams all around the UK are competing for promotion or battling relegation and there’s plenty to play for.
And as players continue to be hauled up in self-isolation, there is a host of answered questions.
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How long has the EFL been suspended for?
A meeting between English football governing bodies in April agreed that all professional football in the UK will not resume until it is safe to do so with no date provided.
Games in Leagues One and Two were last played on Tuesday, March 10 but no further EFL action has taken place.
The National League continued over the weekend of Saturday, March 14 but caught criticism for doing so and has since postponed matches as well.
Premier League games, upcoming FA Cup quarter-finals, Champions League and Europa League ties and international fixtures have also been pushed back.
When is the EFL likely to resume?
As it stands, there is no date for when action could return with the EFL meeting frequently to discuss the ongoing situation.
However, EFL chairman Rick Parry said in early May that the 2019/20 season MUST end before July 31 as he gave evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.
“Our end date realistically is 31 July because of the situation with contracts,” said Parry. “We can’t go beyond July.
“Players and staff have been furloughed and to expect clubs to bring them back in now, to forgo the furlough, only to then find in a month they can’t play would be a complete mess.
“We need within days to be taking decisions.”
There is a chance the season could resume behind closed doors, though Parry insists this would be for ‘sporting integrity’ rather than for financial reasons as clubs would lose out on valuable matchday revenue.
Could the EFL seasons be voided?
League Two clubs voted in early May to end their campaign but proposed the removal of relegation as the entire season had not been played out.
The governing body, however, insist relegations and promotions must happen across all three divisions to maintain the integrity of the EFL.
Furthermore, the EFL has announced it will determine the final league tables using an unweighted points per game system should the Championship and League One follow League Two’s lead and curtail their seasons.
The EFL has set out the following framework on how they plan to get seasons finished:
The EFL's recommended framework (May 21)
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: a. 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.
Has the League Two season ended?
Clubs in League Two have ‘unanimously indicated’ that they want their season to be ended.
It would see Swindon crowned champions with Crewe and Plymouth joining them in automatic promotion to League One.
Cheltenham, Exeter, Colchester and Northampton Town are set to make up the play-offs which are planned to go ahead as normal while Stevenage will be relegated.
An EFL statement on May 15 read: “Having considered the protocols and costs that would be required to be met to conclude the current season, League Two Clubs have unanimously indicated a preferred direction of travel to curtail the campaign in line with the framework outlined by the EFL Board.
“In addition, Clubs asked for consideration to be given to suspending relegation to the National League for 2019/20 as a result of circumstances created where fixtures cannot be completed. No commitments were made in this respect and the Board will now consider the implications of the division’s preferred approach at their next meeting.
On League One and the Championship, it added: “There were varied views shared in League One and it was determined that there would be a further period of reflection and consultation to understand what creative solutions could be implemented. It was acknowledged that the need to find innovative and creative solutions was of paramount importance as was the need for decisions to be taken quickly.
“In addition, Championship Clubs met earlier this week and have indicated that it is their wish to play on and conclude the season.
“The EFL will continue to work with all its members to progress the discussions and arrive at the necessary decisions as appropriate in what remain challenging and complex circumstances.”
What else has the EFL said?
EFL chairman Rick Parry said: “In the event that a divisional decision is made to curtail the 2019/20 season, the EFL Board is recommending that the league adopts the original framework with the amendments as identified, as there is a 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.
“The board has always acknowledged that a single solution to satisfy all clubs would always be hard to find, but we are at the point now where strong, definitive action is needed for the good of the League and its members.”
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