Leeds chief executive Angus Kinnear has claimed it would be a “national embarrassment” if England’s top two divisions could not complete their seasons while major leagues across Europe return to action.
Kinnear, writing in the Yorkshire Evening Post, said the Championship leaders are eager to complete the campaign on the pitch, even if curtailment would see them secure promotion on a points-per-game basis.
And, pointing to the Bundesliga’s return last weekend, Kinnear said it was vital that both the Premier League and the Championship – which ranks as one of the world’s biggest leagues in terms of attendance – see the campaign out on the pitch.
“England had some of the finest sports scientists and football administrators in the game and the time has come for us as a sport to stop repeatedly framing the challenges and start delivering on the solution,” Kinnear wrote.
“It would be a national embarrassment if the Bundesliga, La Liga or Serie A were to be able to complete safely and the first and fifth biggest leagues in the world were not able to follow suit if the context remained comparable.”
Premier League players have begun returning to training this week after being tested for coronavirus – with a total of six players and staff testing positive from the 748 results revealed so far – numbers which Kinnear said “gave a firm indication of how manageable this challenge is becoming”.
The EFL, which is around a week behind the the Premier League, has laid out its own training protocols while also confirming that if play is not possible divisions will be determined on a points-per-game average with promotion and relegation applied.
“If Leeds United wanted to be opportunist we could have seized on this ‘point per game’ commitment to push for an early curtailment in concert with some already very vocal self-interests,” Kinnear wrote.
“However, our intention has always been to do all we can to complete this season where we started it – on the pitch.”
The EFL board’s position on relegation being “integral” even in the event of a season being curtailed means that Stevenage would be relegated to the National League if League Two was curtailed and points-per-game was applied. Fourth tier clubs had indicated last week they were in favour of curtailing the season but with no relegation.
— EFL Communications (@EFL_Comms) May 21, 2020
National League leaders Barrow would most likely come up to take the EFL back up to 72 members, after the demise of Bury last summer.
Harrogate are second in the National League, but their managing director Garry Plant says whether relegation from League Two is imposed or not is irrelevant.
“Our standpoint is this – relegation (from League Two) has got nothing to do with us at all,” he told the PA news agency.
“The rules state that the champions and the runners-up, or play-off winners, get promoted to League Two, end of story.
“Relegation (from League Two) is not in my gift, nor am I in the right pay band to even talk about it. It’s nothing to do with me, or Harrogate Town, we are focused on promotion.”
Plant said his club would abide by any decisions made to settle the final league table at National League level, whether that meant the application of points per game and playing up to two more matches in the play-offs if they were retained.
The EFL put a disclaimer on a club being relegated to the National League, saying it should apply “providing we have assurances that the National League will start season 2020-21”.
Plant said, as with all competitions across the globe, giving guarantees was difficult.
“I am sure the National League will recommence when it can,” he added.
“There are even doubts today about when the Premier League is starting, so everything is up in the air.”