How the crucial EFL vote could turn out for Bolton Wanderers
THE Tranmere "margin of error" framework, the Lincoln City amendment, the Ipswich Town proposal... Not rejected titles for The Big Bang Theory but plans which are up for votes at ttoday's long-awaited EFL meeting.
From 10.30am, 71 clubs will be represented on a video conference call to cast their ballot on how seasons in the Championship, League One and League Two could be ended if no further competitive football can be played.
Only after the regulations have been changed will each division then be able to vote on whether it ends now, or continues to a conclusion.
Clubs in the second tier have already indicated that they want to press on, have returned to training and commenced Covid-19 testing programmes. They will begin playing again on June 20, provided all the health and safety boxes are ticked.
League Two has indicated that it wants to curtail the season – although bottom club Stevenage have launched an objection to being relegated. Play-offs are expected to be completed and Exeter City, Cheltenham Town, Colchester United, Northampton Town have now resumed training and testing in line with the EFL’s recommended procedures, by way of preparation.
It has proved much more difficult to get a common consensus in League One. And though many predict that clubs will eventually vote to curtail the season using the points-per-game framework recommended by the EFL itself, two major alternatives have been proposed by Tranmere Rovers and Barnsley.
Lincoln City, Stevenage and Ipswich Town have also submitted amendments, which will be discussed after the main vote.
The EFL’s plan
Relegation and promotion will be upheld and the play-offs will be completed using the regular four-team format.
League placings will be decided using a points-per-game method which will leave Wanderers in 23rd spot and relegated to League Two for next season.
There will be relegation to the National League, provided the competition can prove it will be in a position to complete the 2020/21 season and start on time.
The South Yorkshire club has suggested that there should be no relegation in a division which fails to complete its fixtures. If League One were to vote to curtail the season, Wanderers would not be relegated.
Mark Palios has come up with a complex proposal which adds a “margin of error” to the EFL’s points-per-game plan and would see Tranmere avoid relegation. Wanderers and Southend would drop into League Two.
The formula takes into consideration recent form and also excluded clubs who are way out in-front or behind in the relegation/promotion picture.
Lincoln City’s plan
The Imps have asked that the EFL’s points-per-game proposal is amended for clubs who have already been deducted points this season – including Wanderers.
Little has been confirmed about the detail of the plan but it is not expected to change the outcome for Bolton.
Ipswich Town’s plan
The Tractor Boys want respective divisions to consider alternative play-off formats and to consult with clubs before adopting the EFL’s regular four-team competition.
Wanderers are unaffected by this discussion.
The league’s bottom club want relegation from League Two to be cancelled if teams are not allowed to end the season on the pitch. It differs from Barnsley’s suggestion in that it is specific to their division.
Due to the peculiarities of the EFL’s regulations, the overall vote is weighted towards the Championship, which means they will get ‘more of a say’ on the framework which is adopted.
So, for example, the EFL’s points-per-game plan would require both a majority vote among Championship clubs AND a majority among the full 71 member clubs.
Once that is established, however, clubs in League One and Two will hold discussions on their own individual season – with votes from 12 of the 23 clubs needed to curtail it immediately.
And, for Wanderers, that decision cannot come soon enough.
The club has been in hibernation since March with non-playing staff placed on furlough. A wage deferral agreement with players, coaches and senior management was struck at the start of May but there has been no official confirmation from the UniBol on whether employees were then placed on furlough.
Some senior officials, including CEO Emma Beaugeard, COO Andy Gartside and head of football operations Tobias Phoenix have continued to work – albeit on reduced salary – and it is understood there will be a reshuffle in the near future, once the outcome of the league season has been established.
A decision must also be made on the playing and coaching staff with the vast majority falling out of contract at the end of this month.
The club has largely kept a lid on official comments throughout the lockdown but supporters are keen to see how they intend to rebuild in League Two and what effect that a potential six-month gap without competitive football may have on their plans.
The arguments are unlikely to die down, particularly among clubs who have been displaced by the chosen framework. If the EFL proposal is adopted, Peterborough United would fall out of the play-offs and Wycombe Wanderers would be promoted in third.
Posh owner Darragh MacAnthony has been critical of the league’s leadership during the last few months and believes a natural split may now occur above League One.
“If we don’t get our house in order bad things will happen,” he said. “Within five years you will a Prem 1 and a Prem 2 and Premier League B teams could be in the EFL, all because clubs want to save a few hundred thousand pounds now. We will all regret it in time if it happens.
“I will never be able to live with the decision to end the season and award promotions on a ridiculous points-per-game average.
“Being told in March to prepare for a return to training and playing in the future, and then being told two months later actually we don’t want to play anymore is just wrong. Three weeks ago we were told there was an appetite among clubs for an extended play-offs and yet we still haven’t had the vote.
“I know the EFL have a tough job, but they haven’t lead this process. They’ve effectively left it to 23 clubs who have their own individual agendas to squabble amongst themselves.
“Clubs don’t decide when and who they play, clubs don’t operate their own TV deals - the EFL Board are elected to make decisions for us and they should have said you’re all back training on May 25 and ready to play on June 5. They should have led.
“Instead they couldn’t even produce some real costings of how expensive playing out the rest of the season would have been compared to not playing it. I did some transparent costing and it would be no more than £400k to finish the season, not the £750k-800k other clubs have claimed.
“I bought my football club so we could play football and yet there could be a six-month gap between matches for professional athletes. How can that be right?
“We must look like a ‘Mickey Mouse’ operation. The Premier League and the Championship will be back playing soon. Even the Third Division in Germany is coming back and yet we are about to call it a day in League One.
“There is a fair proposal in front of the clubs next week, one which gives everyone who had a realistic chance of promotion the opportunity to go up rather than hand out a fake promotion, one which allows the clubs who don’t want to play to stay in hibernation and I’m still hopeful that Mark Palios (Tranmere chairman) can persuade a few clubs to vote for it.
“I have no idea why Rotherham want to accept a fake promotion when they appear to be confident enough of their own strength to take part in an eight-team play-off which would lead to two promotions.”