What’s going to happen to the top two clubs in England’s second tier? Will their work this season have been in vain?
The enforced postponement of football across England has raised a number of difficult questions regarding the future of this season’s competitions and the accompanying financial considerations.
Below the Premier League, the English Football League (EFL) has moved to reassure its clubs at all levels and a short-term £50 million relief fund has been approved by the organisers to help ease burdens.
However, one area that remains shrouded in doubt is the question of promotion from the Championship – a mind-bogglingly lucrative consideration.
Will Championship clubs be promoted if the Premier League is cancelled?
While there has been no official indication as to what exactly will happen with promotion to the Premier League, it has been suggested that the Championship’s top teams will be promoted regardless.
According to a report in the Telegraph, in the event that England’s top division cancels the remainder of the season, Leeds United and West Brom – who are the top two in the Championship – will be promoted.
If there is a hold on relegation for the bottom three Premier League clubs, that would mean a 22-team Premier League for 2020-21, which would subsequently impact the make-up of the EFL leagues.
After 37 games, the two teams poised for automatic promotion to the top flight are Leeds United and West Brom, who are on 71 and 70 points respectively – a healthy lead over third-place Fulham on 64 points.
In response to the worsening coronavirus pandemic, the FA postponed games until April 3 at the earliest and the EFL has expressed its desire to complete the season.
“The primary objective, in order to protect competition integrity, is to deliver a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season, subject to the over-riding priority around health and well-being,” an EFL statement said.
“The EFL is continuing regular dialogue with the government and relevant health authorities and, as and when more information is known regarding the scale and extent of the coronavirus outbreak in this country, a decision will be taken on the resumption of the League’s fixtures.”
There are, theoretically, nine gameweeks left to fulfil in order to complete the season, which means that those clubs are tantalisingly close to securing their place at the top table.
Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear has dismissed the idea that the Premier League can ‘pull up the ladder’ on the English football pyramid by cancelling their season.
“We think the position of the English Football League clubs is that promotion and relegation between the leagues is sacrosanct and that will be a difficult thing to move away from,” Kinnear told the Financial Times.
Will the Premier League be cancelled?
The Telegraph reports that discussions are ongoing regarding the idea of cancelling the Premier League, but an official announcement has not been made to that effect.
Premier League bosses, clubs and the FA will no doubt revisit the issue when the period of postponement approaches a conclusion at the start of April and assess the severity of the coronavirus threat.
Part of the reported cancellation plans include crowning Liverpool as champions and cancelling relegation for the bottom three clubs – at the time of writing: Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City.
West Ham chief Karren Brady notably caused a stir following the postponement of Premier League fixtures when she insisted that “the only fair and reasonable thing to do is declare the whole season null and void.”
Of course, Brady’s pronouncement on the matter must be tempered by the fact that her club – precariously placed 16th with the same points as Bournemouth – would potentially benefit from such a course of action.
It is not clear if her opinion is one that is widely held among other clubs, who naturally have competing interests.
Some, for example, may want to see the season continue if they are on the cusp of qualifying for the Europa League or the Champions League.