Cross talks are scheduled to take place at an EFL meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) where a number of key issues will be discussed.
It has been reported that leagues one and two may be canceled due to the coronavirus crisis.
Coventry has a five point lead at the top of its division and is nearing promotion to the championship.
Before the crucial discussions on EFL, we look at what the Sky Blues and their counterparts might see happen and the main topics that could be covered …
League One and League Two canceled
It has been widely reported that both Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 could be canceled for the rest of the season, a move that would be understandable given the economic impact of coronavirus in the lowest divisions of the EFL.
The appetite to finish the season lower in the league, where broadcast and sponsorship revenues are considerably lower, is considered minimal – the top priority being how to ensure the clubs’ survival during the chaotic period.
Of course, this will still leave a lot to decide when it comes to promotion and relegation, with a choice to make or whether to keep the ranking as it is, introduce another way to decide on key results or to declare the null and void campaign. .
A big hurdle to overcome is the large number of EFL players who are due to expire in late June and those on loan to return to their parent clubs at the same time.
In the Premier League, legislation has been put in place for such agreements to extend until the end of the season, but involving the same system in EFL could be difficult, as the number of players in this situation is much higher.
Then there is the question of loaned players in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 who have to return to the championship clubs – would they be able to represent their parent teams if the two lower divisions ended?
The playoffs have changed
The EFL will be determined for the playoffs that will take place in the coming months, as this is arguably the biggest opportunity on the EFL calendar. However, taking place behind closed doors and possibly coming after the end of a full season, changes are likely.
It has been widely reported that the EFL would turn the two-legged semi-finals into a one-legged affair in a neutral location, a decision that should not be too difficult to put in place. More complicated, however, is how involvement is decided if the full season is not over – and if the Ligue 1 and League 2 playoffs take place if the season is canceled.
Home stadium problems
The EFL has always argued that the plan calls for the remaining matches to be played behind closed doors in the usual format at home and away, but this would require government approval, which has made it clear that the risk of large gatherings social issues should be avoided. .
The concern is that fans are gathering to celebrate the end-of-season accomplishments or to cheer on their team, which is clearly contrary to current government directives and a problem that could be present for the majority of the months to come.
Even if the use of home stadiums is approved, EFL faces a daunting challenge in ensuring the safety of everyone involved at sites that are often very different – take Elland Road from Leeds United and Kenilworth Road from Luton Town, for example.
Short-term rule changes have been introduced by the International Football Association Board, which are football lawmakers, and will need to be ratified by the EFL before being introduced.
The changes increase the number of substitutes allowed in a game to five, but there will be specific points in a match where they can be used, in order to reduce the number of saves.
Relegation / Promotion Changes
As mentioned, much remains unclear about relegation and promotion to EFL if the season is not over. While promotion of merit teams after their performance before suspension will be supported, relegation teams without the full campaign being completed present a legal minefield.
It has been suggested that relegation to EFL could be dropped, with the top two being promoted from each division and five teams being relegated during the 2020/21 season to bring the divisions back to the usual 24 teams.
However, this would require the approval of the Football Federation and could present legal challenges – and it is a similar situation if they decide on the four teams that can take part in the playoffs, as those who lack a little could oppose. .
Decision of points per match
A floating idea for deciding the final standings is the number of points per game, which would see the table determined by the average number of points a team has earned during the season – which is found after dividing the number of points by the number of matches.
It would be a fair way to decide the campaign, especially at the top, but there could be objections among the clubs that would be relegated accordingly – which could again see the EFL crossing a legal minefield.
Back to training
Before matches are even considered, plans must be in place for players to resume training and, as the EFL training grounds are often very different from those in the Premier League, this is not not a clear situation.
The government should give its approval to any return to group formation, which is currently not allowed due to social distancing measures, and players would then be faced with strict instructions to reduce their risk of being exposed to the virus.
Again, this is easier said than done for EFL players who are paid significantly less than their Premier League counterparts, so the risk against the reward may not be worth it and it may s ‘prove to be extremely problematic,
Mass testing of players and club staff will also be required before any group training or return to games, which should be followed by regular testing – which is costly and could strain the NHS.
Any test would have to be approved by Public Health England and would have to come from private sources, which would cost a lot of money, and the sheer number of tests required is a big hurdle to overcome.
Again, the risk against the reward may not be worth it and players should feel they are safe. Even if all of this is approved, there could still be a number of obstacles.
What if all goes wrong?
This is perhaps the biggest unanswered question of all. If the EFL returns and the matches are held behind closed doors, what if it doesn’t go as planned and there is an epidemic in the league?
Would games played during this period count or the table revert to the original suspension date? Would the playoffs continue? In truth, the questions are endless and any plan should certainly have a number of backup options if the worst-case scenario arises.