League Two clubs to discuss concerns over ability to complete season on Tuesday
League Two clubs will meet on Tuesday amid growing concerns over their ability to complete the season.
Like the Premier League, the English Football League is committed to finishing the campaign once it is safe to do so following the coronavirus pandemic, and have said it will take them 56 days to complete the nine rounds of matches across their three divisions, plus play-offs.
However, it is estimated the contracts of about 200 League Two players end on 30 June and although world governing body Fifa is working on plans to bring in rolling extensions, many clubs at that level of the game do not want the additional expense at a time when they are struggling so badly financially.
Club owners are already resigned to matches being played behind closed doors when they do eventually return.
And opinion is divided about how to resolve the situation.
""I'm beginning to think it's unlikely that we will finish this season, but that's a personal view," Cambridge United chief executive In Mather told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
"I've spoken to a chief executive from a club that's at the top and he said that they'd be prepared for the season to be scrapped, even if it takes away a chance of promotion.
He added: "I think on balance, and being realistic, we would (vote to) scrap the season, but that's not to say that's a view that everyone shares. If we have to play the season we'll play it."
His Leyton Orient counterpart Danny Macklin believes cancelling the rest of the season would be a "knee-jerk reaction".
He said: "It's a concern as it is for every club, but we would rather be playing games that we can use our streaming platform for rather than play no football at all."
There is huge uncertainty over when fans will be allowed back into stadiums, with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying on Monday that "some sort of social distancing would be required" even after restrictions are lifted, possibly until a vaccine was available. Reports have suggested that might be over a year away.
In addition to ticket sales for the remainder of the season, it would deprive clubs of one of their most significant revenue streams because they will not be able to sell season tickets for next season, the funds from which they have traditionally used to get them through the summer.
There is also concern that some owners who clubs have relied upon to keep them afloat by making payments to cover losses will not be able to do so, because of their own businesses struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Ironically, any player whose contract expires on 30 June and has not signed for another club does receive a severance payment for July. However, that payment has been in existence for a number of years and does not bring with it any obligation to play additional matches, meaning a new contract would be required to cover the remaining weeks of the 2019-20 season.
A demand to end the season is not likely on Tuesday. However, there may be an attempt to get more clarity from the EFL over the financial impact of contractual issues, with some arguing the central body should cover the additional cost given their demand for the season to continue.
The fear is that if huge numbers of players are no longer available to clubs as their contracts have expired, it will distort the competition and deprive it of the integrity governing bodies are so keen to protect.
An additional complexity surrounds the transfer window, whenever that eventually falls.
On Monday, Cambridge announced that they have furloughed members of their first-team squad and they are not alone among teams in the fourth tier, with Newport County and leaders Crewe among the EFL clubs to publicly confirm they have taken similar measures.
Clubs who have committed to paying their players out of their own funds want assurances that rivals who are using the government's Job Retention Scheme will not be allowed to make further signings until they have honoured the salaries of their senior squad.