EFL letter raises hopes that Leeds United will complete promotion push on the pitch
THE ENGLISH Football League have reiterated their desire to complete the season's remaining fixtures, raising hopes that Leeds United’s promotion drive will be completed on the pitch.
The EFL and Premier League seasons remain suspended amidst the country’s battle with coronavirus, which has seen the nation put on lockdown with stringent social distancing measures in place.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will review the lockdown measures next Thursday with the EFL having already stated their intention to fulfil all remaining fixtures within a 56-day time frame in the summer months on the assumption those games would be played behind closed doors.
The EFL have previously stated May 16 as a suggested date for teams to return to training.
Doubts, though, have since been cast as to whether the EFL season could actually be concluded due to the obstacles in the EFL’s way with YEP sources revealing on Thursday that the only season with a realistic chance of being played to a completion is the Premier League.
That would mean three teams being relegated into the Championship resulting in three teams being promoted, even if the EFL season was scrapped.
Leeds are currently one point ahead of second-placed West Brom with the Whites holding a seven-point cushion in the division’s automatic promotion spots with nine games left.
But in a letter to the EFL’s Championship, League One and League Two clubs sent on Friday, EFL chairman Rick Parry confirmed the EFL remained in talks with the government about a return date as Premier League clubs also reaffirmed their commitment to complete the 2019-20 campaign.
Parry said: “Whilst there is still no further clarity on a return of EFL matches, the objective remains to play the remaining fixtures for the 2019-20 campaign at the current 71 EFL grounds.
“It is important that any clubs notify the EFL of any issues that may prevent this as soon as possible.
“Some progress has been made in respect of planning how matches may take place, with draft operational plans put before the board at this week’s meeting and incorporating many areas such as: stadium preparation, medical provisions, staffing, media access and, of course, measures needed to ensure the safety of all participants including first-team players and staff, match officials, and everyone else associated with the matchday environment.’
The possibility of taking tests for COVID-19 away from NHS staff, key workers and the general public had been causing concern among clubs.
Parry added: “Whatever the outcome, we are confident that, at this time, access will not be an issue and the acquisition of supplies will not be at the expense of the country’s frontline staff. That simply is not an option for the EFL to consider.”
At a Friday meeting of Premier League Shareholders as part of ‘Project Restart’, top-flight clubs also discussed possible steps towards planning to resume the 2019/20 season, when it is safe and appropriate to do so.
A statement from the Premier League read: “It was reiterated that the thoughts of all are with those directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Furthermore, the Premier League’s priority is the health and safety of players, coaches, managers, club staff, supporters and the wider community.
“The League and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward and will only return to training and playing with Government guidance, under expert medical advice and after consultation with players and managers.
“The League welcomed the creation of the Government medical working group for a return of elite sport, which met for the first time this morning.
“No decisions were taken at today’s Shareholders’ meeting and clubs exchanged views on the information provided regarding “Project Restart”.
“It was agreed that the PFA, LMA, players and managers are key to this process and will be further consulted.
“The clubs reconfirmed their commitment to finishing the 2019/20 season, maintaining integrity of the competition and welcomed the Government’s support.”