On Friday, both the Premier League and the EFL confirmed that there would be a break from football until April the 4th at the earliest, due to the fears over coronavirus. Many fans were left in a predicament after purchasing tickets and travel for Saturday’s trip to Bloomfield Road to face Blackpool, only to be told that that game wouldn’t be played. There can be no doubt that calling the break was the correct decision from a medical perspective, as fan safety comes before the pleasure of football, but, what should we expect now?
There are a lot of questions that have still been unanswered by the major governing bodies in the UK, and in the world, regarding the possible postponement of Euro 2020. I would expect that there will be an update on what is going to happen with the remainder of the League One season, along with the other leagues in England, approaching within the next few days, but no one really knows what new developments are going to occur day after day.
Only a three-week break has been called by the operating bodies in the UK at the moment, but if the “global pandemic” gets worse, I highly think that that break will be extended for another couple of weeks, until the virus has become less weak. Meanwhile, the news in the past few days have stated that we haven’t reached the peak of COVID-19 just yet, so will it take until around June for the continuation of the seasons?
The repercussions of this break could be absolutely massive on clubs in both the Premier League and in the lower leagues, such as League One and Two. It has been revealed that Sunderland’s League One rivals, Peterborough United, had to spend £6,000 on testing their players for the coronavirus, as they had come in contact with Portsmouth players, who had recently played Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, with the Gunners boss revealing he has tested positive for the virus.
The loss of matchday revenue will have a damming effect of football clubs, no matter what division they are in, but in League One, Sunderland will probably take the biggest blow out of all 23 teams, due to our attendances of around 30,000 week in, week out.
There could be a case stated by Sunderland that this break could do them some good. Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat against Bristol Rovers extended the Black Cats’ winless run to four matches, and it could be stated that the Wearsiders need a break to refresh themselves, ahead of what would have been a rapid run to the finish line.
The break will extinguish the league’s in-form teams’ runs. Oxford United have won five out of their last five, since losing 1-0 to the Black Cats in the middle of February. Also, Fleetwood Town had been unbeaten since the 11th of January, when they lost 1-0 against Burton Albion. So, this break will make sure that their competitive spirit and winning momentum eases off for the next three weeks or so.
Another issue is regarding the contracts of Sunderland’s players. Twelve players will see their current contracts run out in the summer of 2020, including the likes of Jon McLaughlin and Chris Maguire, whilst deals for Kyle Lafferty and loans for Bailey Wright, Declan John and Antoine Semenyo all run out in the summer also. So, what happens if the League One season is extended into the summer months - will Sunderland still be able to field these players, or will the common rules stay in place?
Only time will tell what will occur, but hopefully we are able to see Sunderland continue their promotion push in League One, sooner rather than later.