Joey Barton & Danny Cowley question 'integrity' of League One

Joey Barton and Danny Cowley
Joey Barton (left) and Danny Cowley both expressed sympathy with all involved at Bolton and Bury

The English Football League says the integrity of League One is "of paramount importance" after criticism from two managers in the third tier.

Lincoln boss Danny Cowley and Fleetwood's Joey Barton are both unhappy with the EFL's handling of the ongoing problems at Bury and Bolton.

Bury's first five league games have been suspended and they could be expelled from the EFL on Friday.

Bolton postponed a match scheduled for Tuesday over player welfare concerns.

Cowley said he was "disappointed" with the EFL and claimed Saturday's opponents Doncaster, who were due to face Bolton on Tuesday, would now have an unfair advantage as they were not involved in a midweek fixture.

Barton said League One had been "ruined" and, with clubs not fulfilling fixtures and two teams being deducted points before the season started, described it as "a bit of a Mickey Mouse league".

When asked by BBC Sport about the comments made by the pair, a spokesperson for the EFL said: "While accepting everyone is entitled to their opinion, we have repeatedly stated that the integrity of the league competition remains of paramount importance and any club that doesn't fulfil a fixture will face a sporting sanction.

"Clearly, no one wants to see a league with two teams on minus points, but the priority right now is working to find solutions for the survival of the clubs concerned."

What's the latest at Bury and Bolton?

Bury have been given until Friday to prove they have the necessary funds to complete the season and can meet the terms of the Company Voluntary Arrangement approved by creditors in July.

They were removed from the Carabao Cup after their first-round tie was suspended and, like Bolton, were deducted 12 points before the season started because of their financial problems.

If Bury are expelled, the EFL has confirmed that the League One season will be completed with 23 teams, with the number of relegation places reduced to three.

Bolton have been in administration since May but have been able to play three of their four league fixtures to date.

However, they postponed Tuesday's game against Doncaster because of their concerns about the welfare of the younger players who are making up the majority of their first-team squad.

Both the EFL and Doncaster said they were unaware of Bolton's decision until the club's announcement on Monday.

'It looks a bit of a Mickey Mouse league'

Barton told BBC Radio Lancashire: "The league is becoming a bit of a farce. Doncaster get a freshen-up this week. What's going on? Someone gets a bye in the cup. The EFL need to have a serious look at themselves because it's ruining our league. Our league's ruined.

"We've got two teams on negative points, we've got teams not fulfilling fixtures. It's a joke.

"I feel sorry for Phil [Parkinson] and the guys at Bolton. But someone's going to play Doncaster on Saturday and they're going to have a fresh week. It's not right.

"Something needs to be done about it sooner rather than later because it's ruined what was a great league last year and it's making our league a mockery.

"League One last year was a fantastic league, really competitive, great to watch. Now you look at the league table in the paper and it looks a bit of a Mickey Mouse league.

"Hopefully they sort it out and teams can fulfil fixtures."

Cowley 'perplexed and disappointed'

Speaking to BBC Radio Lincolnshire after Tuesday's loss at MK Dons, Cowley said: "It's a huge disadvantage for us, there's no hiding place.

"[Doncaster manager] Darren Moore was watching us tonight. They've had a free week, we've played five games back to back and we've got nine games this month, I've only got 18 players myself.

"What do I do? Do I cancel the game on Friday night and let everyone know by social media?

"I'm really perplexed and disappointed. I have to say I'm disappointed with the EFL.

"I genuinely feel really sorry for Bolton and Bury - I feel sorry for them as football clubs, I feel sorry for their staff and players, I feel sorry for the people and communities because I know how important these football clubs are to the communities.

"I'm frustrated and annoyed with the EFL that they've allowed it to get to this. They have to do fit and proper tests to ensure that the calibre of the person taking over the club is suitable.

"We, as English football, have the best pyramid system in the whole world.

"We have the Premier League, which is the best league in the world, and we have the EFL, which follows closely as fourth or fifth in the world.

"This situation now is hugely affecting the integrity of the competition."