By Dan Roan & Simon Stone
League Two’s season has been brought to an early conclusion following discussions between clubs and the English Football League on Friday.
The EFL said clubs “unanimously indicated” they wished to end the season via a “framework” that included tables being decided on points per game and the play-offs remaining as planned.
Any move still needs to be ratified by the EFL and Football Association.
But League One sides face further talks after failing to come to an agreement.
Six third-tier clubs had said prior to the meeting that they were determined to complete their remaining fixtures – and are now set to meet again on Monday in an attempt to find a resolution.
Peterborough United, Oxford United, Sunderland, Fleetwood, Portsmouth and Ipswich Town released a joint statement saying they had “no desire for voiding the season, points-per-game scenarios or letting a computer decide our footballing fate”.
Could Stevenage avoid relegation?
Although it is understood some League Two sides wanted to use a weighted points-per-game system to finalise the table, the EFL has confirmed an unweighted points-per-game system was agreed upon.
Both of those methods would have seen Stevenage stay bottom – yet clubs have also requested that relegation from the fourth tier is removed this season.
“Clubs asked for consideration to be given to suspending relegation to the National League for 2019-20 as a result of circumstances created where fixtures cannot be completed,” said the EFL in a statement.
“No commitments were made in this respect and the board will now consider the implications of the division’s preferred approach at their next meeting.”
Stevenage owner Phil Wallace told BBC Sport: “My preference is to finish the league so we have the opportunity to play our way out of trouble.
“We have 10 games to play and are three points behind, with a game in hand. Why should I think it was not possible to get out of it?
“The League Two clubs cannot decide this. We can only tell the EFL of their indicative position but that is the collective view.
“It would cost us £140,000 for the tests, we would have to bring players out of furlough and comply with a 47-page health and safety document regarding sterilisation of stadiums etc.
“I don’t know what this would mean for the National League.”
Who would make up the places at the top?
The EFL is set to discuss Friday’s recommendations at a board meeting next Wednesday.
Swindon Town would overtake Crewe Alexandra to claim the title using the points-per-game method, with Plymouth Argyle staying in the third and final automatic promotion spot.
The four teams currently in the play-offs – Exeter City, Cheltenham Town, Colchester United and Northampton Town – would remain there, but Cheltenham would move above Exeter and into fourth.
Why can’t they restart?
Attempting to resume the League One and League Two campaigns was always likely to to be more difficult than in the Championship and Premier League, which could begin again in mid-June behind closed doors.
Many clubs in the third and fourth tiers have furloughed their players and, with no crowds allowed into stadiums for the foreseeable future, it would cost them money to stage games.
EFL chairman Rick Parry has also said 1,400 players across the league’s three divisions are out of contract on 30 June. The majority of those players are in League One and League Two.
The National League decided to end its three divisions immediately on 22 April but was waiting on the EFL to announce an outcome before deciding on promotion and relegation.
Timeline: How did we get to this point?
- 10 March – Last games played in Leagues One & Two
- 13 March – EFL suspended until at least 3 April
- 19 March – Suspension extended until end of April
- 26 March – All football below National League expunged
- 9 April – Season ‘can be finished in 56 days’
- 22 April – National League clubs vote to end regular season
- 23 April – Clubs write to EFL over salary cap introduction
- 5 May – EFL clubs face ‘£200m hole’ by September
- 15 May – League Two season ended, League One undecided