The English Football League has laid out tentative plans to complete the 2019-20 season over a period of approximately 56 days over the summer, including the play-offs.
A letter from EFL chairman Rick Parry to its member clubs advises them to prepare for a return to training activity no earlier than May 16 as the country remains on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Parry said the “working assumption” was that the remaining matches in the 2019-20 season would be played behind closed doors. The loss of matchday revenue has hit EFL clubs hard, and last week the Premier League advanced funds totalling £125million to the EFL and the National League to help clubs in financial trouble.
However, the EFL said in its letter that it would hold the money back for now, pending the outcome of separate talks between clubs and the Professional Footballers’ Association concerning player wage deferrals and cuts.
Parry wrote: “Clubs should be advised not to recommence any training activity with players until May 16 at the earliest.
“Whenever the decision is taken that is safe to resume, we currently estimate that the league will require approximately 56 days to complete the outstanding matches in the season (including play-offs) and we are committed to ensuring that clubs are provided an appropriate notice period to ensure you are able to prepare operationally given the scale and impact of the postponements in place.
“How and when we return (including training) is clearly subject to change and any decisions will be taken in conjunction with the Government and relevant health authorities. Clearly, we are in a position whereby the 2019-20 campaign will be extended, but still remain hopeful of a conclusion in the summer months.”
Parry said the reason for holding back the cash advance from the Premier League – which between the EFL and the National League came to a total of £125million – was to await the outcome of negotiations over player wage deferrals and cuts, with the money from the Premier League intended to cover 2020-21 costs.
“In respect of the Premier League’s decision to advance £125m of funds to both the EFL and the National League, the EFL Board has taken the decision to put on hold the forwarding of advanced monies while additional clarity is sought on other financial matters, particularly in respect to player wages.
“Achieving a solution for April payroll has to be the priority at present though, understandably, our aim is to provide clubs clarity for planning purposes beyond this as quickly as possible.”
Tranmere boss Micky Mellon welcomed the plans but questioned how clubs will continue to run if they play behind closed doors.
The Premier League has offered the EFL and National League a £125million advance on their solidarity payments but the EFL said it would hold the money back for now, pending the outcome of separate talks between clubs and the Professional Footballers’ Association concerning player wage deferrals and cuts.
Mellon told the PA news agency: “It’s good to see some kind of plan, I understand how difficult it must be – even the government isn’t giving any dates.
“But where are the finances coming from to pay the wages when there are no crowds? If we’re talking about playing in July and August behind closed doors, where are clubs like Tranmere going to magic up this money?
“Clubs rely on that money (the Premier League solidarity payments) to get them through the season. All they’ve done is brought it forward. When this season finishes there’s another one.
“There is a lot of work to be done on it but we all have willing, if the opportunity comes up to finish the league that is what we want to do.
“But everyone in football will say the same and that is there are more important things at the minute and that’s to sort out this virus.”