Premier League update as leaked message casts more doubts into Leeds United kicking another ball this term

PREMIER League clubs have reaffirmed their commitment to complete the 2019-20 season after a leaked WhatsApp message cast more doubt on Leeds United kicking another ball in the Championship this term.

Friday, 1st May 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Friday, 1st May 2020, 7:40 pm

Both the Premier League and EFL campaigns remain suspended due to the country’s battle against coronavirus and YEP sources revealed 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 meaning three teams would be promoted even if the EFL season is 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.

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FLYING THE FLAG? Premier League clubs reaffirmed their desire to complete the 2019-20 season on the pitch at a meeting on Friday. Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images.

If the EFL season cannot be concluded, no matter which model the EFL agree to use to determine the final tables and promotion places, Leeds would almost certainly go up.

The EFL have previously 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 country remains on lockdown amidst strict social distancing measures until at least next Thursday when the lockdown situation will be up for review.

The EFL have previously stated May 16 as a suggested date for teams to return to training.

But the Yorkshire Evening Post obtained a copy of the voice message reportedly sent by Bristol Rovers representative Alex Rodman to his teammates, in which he explains the latest details of an EFL call which he was privy to.

Rodman is one of a number of player representatives liaising with the EFL, the PFA, club owners and ex-England star, Sky Sports pundit and part-owner of League Two side Salford City Gary Neville – who is acting as a bridge between the PFA and players during the current crisis.

After their most recent call earlier this week, Rodman sent a voice message to his fellow squad members in a bid to update them on the current situation and the EFL’s plans – which include requiring 66,000 coronavirus tests, the revelation that the EFL doesn’t expect fans to return to grounds until 2021, and an admission that the season may not be concluded.

At a Friday meeting of Premier League Shareholders as part of ‘Project Restart’, top-flight clubs 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.”

The leaked voice message from Rodman - which has Bristol Rovers understood to be investigating the source of the leak - read in full: ““So I’ve just come off the call for the last meeting.

“Basically, I need a vote off everyone about severance pay in our contracts. You’ve heard a few of the things that have happened in it, I just need a yes or no from everyone which I’ll explain in this now.

“Basically, the government guidance on May 7th when they talk about the lockdown is going to be dictating when we come back in, what they say will be based off what the government say.

“The chief executive of the EFL said it would be very optimistic to even be playing games in June, so he doesn’t really think we’ll be playing games then.

“Gary Neville and one of the other club owners doesn’t even think we’ll be playing anywhere near then.

“We definitely won’t be playing any games with fans – that’s come from the EFL – this year, they don’t think. We’ll be looking at January 2021 unless a cure pops up.

“They’d need 66,000 tests for us to finish the season. Given the NHS are struggling for tests and general people are struggling up to now for tests, from a PR point of view I don’t think any of the football bosses could sell footballers needing to finish a season with that many tests. Unless that changes drastically, they’re talking about us not getting the season finished and the season being decided on sporting merit.

“So three promotions from every league. The Premiership would have another three clubs and it would filter down the pyramid. No relegations, and that would obviously have to be absorbed the season after so there’d be more relegations etc etc.

“The owners of football clubs legally have to provide a safe working environment for their employees, and if we are still being told to social distance how we can run around and tackle and what have you and everything to play football… unless we’re doing weekly tests, a lot of people on the call can’t see the season finishing.

“Who knows what will happen there.

“The most important thing is that they said player welfare was the priority, and one of the most important things is the contract situation.

“Legally, they can’t enforce clubs to extend our contracts so if people are out of contract on June 30, you would get your July severance pay.

“FIFA are going to release something advising clubs, but the general consensus from clubs is that they have told the EFL that they won’t be paying clubs extra or extending contracts because they can’t afford it.

“Whether that becomes a full-blown blanket agreement or it’s done individually, I don’t know. I’d imagine it would be one or the other – all clubs will do it, or they won’t. It won’t be done individually because some clubs won’t be able to play.

“The issue is with the severance pay, if our season was to go into July then if you were out of contract – and obviously this doesn’t apply to some lads because they’ve got a contract for next year anyway – if you are out of contract and our season ran into July and we knew our contracts wouldn’t be extended, would you be willing to play through July knowing you wouldn’t be paid severance pay for the month of August? And would you play knowing you weren’t getting another contract for next year?

“Obviously our severance pay when our contracts run out in June is for July, and it’s there to protect you in case you don’t get another club for the next season.

“If you were playing through July and knew you would finish at the end of July, and then from the first week of August you weren’t going to be compensated by the club, would you be willing to play?

“They want to know roughly figures of lads, yes or no, so they can take it back to the clubs and inform them.

“A lot of clubs have said they will categorically not pay past that date. I don’t know what ours have said, but some of the club owners on the call have said they categorically will not pay that – but if a lot of the players have said they won’t play, then maybe that will force their hand.”

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