Time for talking is over, EFL clubs need to vote now over future – Stuart Rayner

“We need to be taking decisions within days,” Football League chairman Rick Parry told a House of Commons select committee on May 5.

AESSEAL New York Stadium home of Rotherham United.

And yet we will still have to wait until June 8 to find out if League One will try to complete the 2019-20 season. Even League Two, which made its decision to call it quits a fortnight ago looks unlikely to have it rubber-stamped by then.

With the table so tight and clubs fighting to protect their own interests, the third tier is struggling to reach agreement. Valid arguments are being put forward (as well as some more dubious ones) but continuously kicking the can down the road makes no sense.

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My own view is that so deep into a season, voiding would be more unfair than deciding the final table on a points-per-game basis, the Football League’s preferred solution. That would send Rotherham United into the Championship but deny Doncaster Rovers a play-off place, and condemn Barnsley to relegation if the Championship are unable to play their remaining matches.

Others make a good case that a lot can happen in the six to eight matches each team has left.

Whatever 12 clubs vote for, goes. So why is the League so reluctant to ask?

Peterborough United director of football Barry Fry called yesterday’s announcement that no vote will be taken until the week after next “embarrassing” but it is far more than that. With many clubs’ finances so precarious, it could be the death of them.

The chances are, they will eventually go the same way as the division below but if not, there will be next to no time to get ready for matches which for some will be very important.

Parry also told the committee matches – including play-offs – have to be played by July 31, and Doncaster Rovers have eight regular-season fixtures left.

The Premier League has given itself four weeks of training before resuming on June 17. It is as wildly unrealistic as it is unfair to expect players to start playing again almost at the drop of a hat, particularly as those arguing to play on cite “sporting integrity”.

Clubs that wait until June 8 before restarting training are taking a massive risk. At the moment, though, they can only open their training grounds for individual work because players and staff have not been tested for coronavirus. Unlike in the Premier League, those tests are paid for by the clubs, not the governing body.

Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart estimates the cost of a restart at £500,000 to £1m. For the big-budget clubs outside the automatic promotion positions but desperate to get back into the Championship, that might seem a gamble worth taking.

For clubs like Doncaster with players on furlough, the costs and complications are even greater.

Furloughed players can train at home, but cannot be given programmes to follow by the experts who work for the club. If Doncaster want them to start training, just in case they are going to be asked to play again next month, they will have to pay them in full.

Clubs have been given until June 2 to provide alternative suggestions as to how to resolve the third-tier season but Tranmere Rovers have already come up with the more complicated, more nuanced, mathematical formula which would allow them to avoid relegation. The clubs pushing for an expanded play-offs have floated their ideas.

The confrontation cannot be avoided forever. Every day it is dodged moves some clubs closer to extinction.

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