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Opinion: The reality is the show cannot go on

Dissenting clubs at League One level need to get their priorities sorted. 

General Views of Sport Venues After Events Postponed Due To Coronavirus Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

This has been a season of unrivalled instability within the Football League. This is particularly the case in the 23, and very nearly 22, team League One. You might think that in the immediate aftermath of this that clubs might grasp the bigger picture. How very distressing it is to see that they have not.

League Two clubs have, unanimously, come to the sensible decision of calling their season now, though I understand this is not a binding vote at this stage you would hope their wishes are honoured in a formal EFL vote. League One sides though are somewhat less united, with some prioritising their promotion pushes, which are not all going well, above the future of other sides in the league.

It is worth noting that the EFL voting system means, based on my understanding, that a majority of League One teams would not need to be in favour of calling the season early. Remarkably Championship sides would have the biggest say. The logic of that is a debate for another day.

It is fully understandable that sides up within a very close race for a play off place in League One would like to see the season finished. If Bolton Wanderers were up there then I of course would think that way, at least initially. This is though the selfishness which drove football to the brink of disaster, even without the financial turmoil caused by Covid.

The reality is for many sides that pushing on now would push them towards financial ruin. The central money has been circulated, the final elements of this formed parts of the EFL’s ‘bailout’ earlier in the pandemic. All that clubs will receive now to keep paying their bills are gate receipts, which they are unlikely to see before July/August at the very earliest. Without this income, clubs operating on tight margins simply cannot be expected to bring staff back from furlough, etc. Those who were struggling to pay, and even not paying, wages before would be the first to the wall.

So to continue the season there would need to be a cash infusion from somewhere else. But in all reality where is this expected to come from? The Government won’t and indeed shouldn’t have to bailout the football industry. The reality is the Premier League is also currently in a precarious financial position and needs to be sure it will complete the season and bring in all of the outstanding money from broadcasters before they could contemplate sending more down the pyramid.

There is no ideal solution to finish the season, but I would certainly argue that one which does not push more clubs to the brink is preferable. Yes this may mean Sunderland and Ipswich Town not getting into a play off place with a chance of promotion, but frankly teams of their size with their budgets should be comfortably top two anyway. Sunderland are still getting Premier League parachute payments though there is a wider story there. What I am trying to say here, oh yes, they are moaning because their seasons have not gone as expected.

I know it is unfair that some teams have already collected their six points from Southend United. It is also not fair that some teams have hit form later in the season and fancy their chances of a play off place. But, life isn’t fair. I want to go to the pub, as do my mates, but it doesn’t mean the pubs are going to open. Society has been reset during this pandemic to operate for the greater good. Or at least that is the objective of the lockdown measures in effect, and that is not fair on everyone. Just look at Port Vale’s owner who has voted to end the League Two season despite her side sitting one point outside a play off place. She gets it.

Though calling the season short is unfair, there is also the issue of teams who will only bring cheaper players out of furlough. If League One is forced to complete expect a few Junior Whites style situations because clubs cannot afford to bring back their professionals or won’t because they have nothing to play for.

Sporting integrity in League One went out of the window the day that Bolton Wanderers’ Junior Whites took to the field for the first time. It was further undermined when Bury exited the competition. What is the problem now then? Let’s just call this flawed season now.