Huge boost to Leeds United's promotion hopes as EFL outline primary objective for rest of campaign
THE EFL say their primary objective is to deliver a successful conclusion to the rest of the season by finishing the remainder of the campaign on the pitch.
The news will come as a huge boost to Leeds United who are nine games away from a potential return to the Premier League in having a seven-point cushion in the division's automatic promotion spots.
Both the EFL and Premier League programmes are currently postponed until at least Friday, April 3 due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
UEFA have already announced that this year's European Championships will instead take place next year to provide their European leagues an opportunity to fulfil their campaigns over the summer.
UEFA hope all league campaigns will be concluded by June 30 and all 24 Championship clubs have agreed a preference to see the current season concluded when safe to do so.
The EFL board were then locked in a long meeting on Wednesday and the EFL have confirmed that their chief aim is to see this season's remaining games played.
Asked how realistic it was to finish the current season at this point, EFL chairman Rick Parry told Sky Sports News: "We believe it's realistic. In fact we believe it's essential because we want to finish competitively, we want the right decisions to be taken on the pitch. Quite frankly we believe it's more important to finish this season than to talk about next season.
"We discussed all of the aspects of the virus and potential outcomes and permutations and reaffirmed our commitment to finishing the season on the pitch.
"We want it to be competitive and we want promotion and relegation decided properly.
"We look forward to further dialogue with the Premier League and the FA tomorrow to make sure we are in step with our partner governing bodies."
The EFL have also revealed that measures will be put in place to immediately assist club's with cash flow via a £50 million short-term relief package.
A statement read: "The EFL board met today to discuss the implications of the COVID-19 outbreak for the League and its clubs.
"After receiving a detailed brief on a number of matters, the board reaffirmed that the health and well-being of EFL staff, players, club employees and supporters would remain central to all decisions in these fast-changing circumstances.
"The EFL Board also acknowledges the positive role that member clubs are playing in community solidarity, especially in supporting the vulnerable at this time.
"The primary objective, in order to protect competition integrity, is to deliver a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season, subject to the over-riding priority around health and well-being.
"Plans continue to be developed on the agreed principle that it is in the best interests of the EFL and clubs to complete the current season at the appropriate time.
"The EFL is continuing regular dialogue with the Government and relevant health authorities and, as and when more information is known regarding the scale and extent of the coronavirus outbreak in this country, a decision will be taken on the resumption of the league’s fixtures.
"Conversations will continue with the EFL’s counterparts at the FA, the Premier League, the PFA and the LMA to ensure football achieves a joined-up and collaborative approach."
Turning attentions to financial support, the statement read: "As part of the league’s continued contingency planning, the board heard the comments and observations from EFL Clubs, before discussing a number of issues including the current financial position and implications, insurance, regulatory matters and broadcasting arrangements.
"Discussions centred on financial relief for clubs in the short term and while there is no one single solution, measures are to be put in place to immediately assist with cash flow via a £50million short-term relief package.
"This fund consists of the remaining Basic Award payments being advanced to Clubs immediately, with the remainder made up through interest-free loan facility available to clubs, calculated in line with the EFL’s Article of Associations.
"The cash injection is included as part of a series of measures, that includes potential government support to help clubs and their associated businesses through this period of uncertainty.
"The EFL welcomes last night’s announcement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and is continuing discussions to understand how our clubs can access the funding made available to support businesses.
"In addition, we will continue our discussions with our football partners to determine how we can all get through this difficult, challenging and unprecedented situation."
In terms of contingency planning, the EFL say that through a dedicated taskforce, they are continuing to review the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, and its impact on their clubs and competitions.
The EFL say that alongside ensuring the 2019-20 season reaches a successful conclusion, protecting the EFL and its clubs is a key priority for their board, who had today agreed on a number of objectives to support future decision-making.
Those objectives were to ensure the health and well-being of their Clubs’ employees, supporters and communities, make a positive contribution to the UK’s efforts to tackle coronavirus, protect the EFL’s financial model and club finances, enable the EFL to continue to function as a business and to deliver a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season.