Leeds United games behind closed doors: Why it’s happening, the major pitfalls and what it means for loyal supporters

Leeds United look set to play their remaining home games behind closed doors under controversial EFL plans – and we take a look at the potential ramifications of that decision.

Monday, 13th April 2020, 5:00 pm
Leeds United games behind closed doors: Why its happening, the major pitfalls and what it means for loyal supporters

As revealed by the YEP last week, the EFL wrote to all 71 clubs playing in their divisions last week to advise of their plans to resume the campaign in front of empty stadiums.

Naturally, that left supporters with a number of key questions as the uncertainty around football continues.

Here, we try and explain why this plan has been formulated, what it means for clubs and supporters, and when we should know more:

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WHY THE EFL ARE CONSIDERING PLAYING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

The EFL remains keen to conclude the 2019/20 season in order to maintain the credibility and integrity of its divisions.

There are fears that declaring the season null and void could lead to a number of legal wrangles in the months to come, as has been seen in lower reaches of non-league.

As such, the EFL laid out their plans on how to finish the season last week, with a 56-day schedule put in place to ensure all fixtures are completed as quickly as possible - thus ensuring minimal disruption to the 2020/21 campaign.

A key part of that plan is putting all games behind closed doors.

With current social distancing measures in place, it is thought that playing games in front of empty stadiums will prove the quickest way to complete the remaining fixture schedule - while it also won’t draw too heavily upon healthcare resources.

The belief of many in footballing circles is that only by playing behind closed doors can the season be completed in a timely manner.

THE POTENTIAL PITFALLS AND ISSUES FACING CLUBS

While playing behind closed doors is an attractive option to many, there are a number of potential pitfalls for clubs and the EFL to navigate through.

Firstly, there is the obvious loss of income that would be suffered by clubs.

While their outgoings would once again rise - with any coaching staff and players who have been placed on furlough leave presumably returning for these fixtures - incomings will not ascend at the same time.

There would still be a glaring gap in the balance sheets of clubs, with match day income a key source of funding for the vast majority of EFL clubs - who aren’t able to benefit from substantial TV deals.

The EFL say they are working on solutions to this issue, and many clubs would likely need financial assurances before agreeing to play behind closed doors.

There is also a question of health.

What would happen if an asymptomatic player later tests positive for coronavirus? His entire club, and any they had played in recent days, would have to self-isolate under current guidelines - which could again put a stopper to the league campaign.

Some have suggested that players could be tested prior to each game, but there is then a moral question of whether testing footballers is a priority at this moment in time.

Other issues, which are less pressing but will also cause concern to EFL clubs, will also rear their head.

Ranging from kit deals to commercial partnerships, there is a veritable minefield of potential issues to contend with.

WHAT WOULD THIS MOVE MEANS FOR FANS, AND COULD THEY STREAM THE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS GAMES?

Another key issue surrounds supporters - particularly those who have already purchased season cards for the 2019/20 season and will ultimately be left a number of games short when games go behind closed doors.

A potential solution may be streaming all games for season ticket holders. For many, this would prove a reasonable compromise and the path was paved for such an option to be pursued when UEFA removed their 3pm broadcast blackout for England and Scotland in recent weeks.

So legally, fans would be able to stream games - but the EFL and clubs would still need to sanction such a move. Talks on that aren’t expected until a return date is set, with more pressing concerns on the short-term agenda.

WHEN WE COULD KNOW MORE ON THESE PLANS

No firm timescales have been set as of yet as to when any form of concrete decision will be made.

Nor has a plan been laid out for when the EFL hope that fixtures can resume behind closed doors - although the start of June is widely believed to be the date the league are aiming for.

But the EFL are being led by government advice at this moment in time, so no announcement on a date for football’s return is thought to be imminent.

There are, though, decisions being made in other leagues.

The National League, for example, have asked all their clubs to vote on whether the season will finish by no later than May 7.

So too have the Scottish Football League asked their clubs to register their views on a similar resolution.

But given the EFL’s desire to finish the season - no matter how long it may take - such short-term announcements aren’t expected.

For now, it’s simply a waiting game.