The EFL published an update on Thursday afternoon surrounding what will happen next in the Championship and Leagues One and Two due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and what they’ve proposed could have a damming effect on Phil Parkinson and Sunderland.
Before the statement was released, there was some hope for Sunderland’s promotion ambitions with the potential of an eight-team play-off being an option for the EFL Board to ponder over, but the latest EFL statement explains that there will be no option for the clubs to choose, with the play-offs sticking to the four team tournament for the final promotion spot, if the season is ended.
The most favoured option that the EFL has provided the clubs with is to end the season now without playing another game - apart from the play-offs, and keeping promotion and relegation. This would mean that in League One, Coventry and Rotherham would be promoted to the Championship and Tranmere, Southend and Bolton being relegated to League Two. So, in the play-offs, Wycombe would face Fleetwood in the 3rd v 6th clash, and Oxford would take on Portsmouth in the 4th v 5th match, with both matches being behind-closed doors.
51% of clubs would have to vote for this option for it to come into effect, meaning in League One, 12 clubs will have to vote to end the season. If the League One season is ended, the final table will be confirmed by the points-per-game statistic, which would mean that Sunderland finish 8th - the worst ever position in the club’s history and would spend a third successive season in England’s third tier.
It is obvious the financial impact the current Coronavirus pandemic is having on the world of football, with Sunderland announcing over six weeks ago, that they had furloughed players and staff. So, this begs the question: will mid-table sides still want to carry on the season despite the big financial impact it will have on them?
Additionally, it was last Thursday, when Oxford, Fleetwood, Portsmouth, Ipswich, Sunderland and Peterborough sent out a rallying call to the EFL, explaining that the League One season has to be completed due to sporting integrity.
So, now that three of these teams are guaranteed a place in the play-offs if the season is cancelled now, will they still back the campaign to carry on the current season? They should, but whether they will is still up in the air like many questions that fans of all EFL clubs will have. What is known is that the vote will be quite tight with some teams supporting the season to be continued, and some happy for it to be ended now and finalised on the PPG strategy.
If the season is ended, Peterborough have already stated that they will take action against the EFL, as they believe that the season should be continued, so will Sunderland take the same route? Wednesday’s threatening statement from new CEO, Jim Rodwell, did back up that point, and implied that Sunderland were thinking about taking action if the season wasn’t continued again; this was apparent when he stated, “We believe that any league placings should be determined by what happens on the pitch, not in a meeting room and most certainly not in a courtroom.”
At the moment, there are a lot of questions, but not enough answers and responses from clubs, so we will have to wait to find out whether Sunderland will have to spend a third successive season in League One.