EFL clubs will meet today to decide how the 2019-20 season will be completed. Sunderland, Ipswich, Oxford, Portsmouth, Peterborough and Fleetwood have joined forces to try and get the season settled ‘on the pitch, not in a meeting room’.
Sunderland’s CEO Jim Rodwell said: “We face various challenges to complete the season, but we feel we owe it to our supporters and players, and the game, to ensure our remaining fixtures are fulfilled. League tables are decided by what happens on the pitch, not in a meeting room. Together, we know that we can overcome those challenges and when it is safe to do so, end the campaign the right way.“
Oxford United managing director Managing Director Niall McWilliams said: “Karl [Robinson] said it in his interviews last week: we want to play. Obviously that’s not going to be easy and I don’t envy the EFL trying to find a way to make it happen but as a club we would love to finish the job that we started all those months ago and try to win promotion on the pitch. It feels like society is slowly taking the first steps back towards normal life and that inevitably means people asking when we are going back. Everyone sees the speculation and the different scenarios and we spoke to a number of clubs this week just to try and gauge opinion. Our message to them, and to the fans remains the same. If a safe way can be found for football to return then we will be ready.”
Portsmouth, chief executive Mark Catlin said: “We owe it to supporters, staff, sponsors and football in general to do everything that we can to get this season completed. There are difficulties in achieving this and we fully understand that, but there is no need to currently make any kneejerk decisions in regards of voiding the season until we have all the information required to make an informed decision on the subject – ranging from safety, which remains our primary concern, through to the financial implications, both for this season and beyond, of taking such a drastic and momentous course of action. Even if the season goes on longer than we would all like, for the integrity of the sport we feel we should give it every opportunity to reach a natural – and, of course, safe – conclusion.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the government would support a behind-closed-doors return in June. “We all agreed that we will only go ahead if it is safe to do so and the health and welfare of players, coaches and staff comes first," said Dowden. "It is now up to the football authorities to agree and finalise the detail of their plans, and there is combined goodwill to achieve this for their fans, the football community and the nation as a whole.”