An EFL club source has told the Real EFL that there is a strong possibility that normal service will not be resumed n the Football League until January 2021.
Football is currently in an uncertain state, with clubs unsure as to when games might recommence. It seems highly likely that if the season is to finish, it will do so behind closed doors, using the iFollow service to stream to supporters. That’s perhaps the only way games can be played and seen by a mass audience, but anyone believing that will be the end to the madness could be very much mistaken.
A BBC report suggests a ban on mass gatherings could go on for up to a year and, if that was the case, we might see the resumption of next season behind closed doors too. In fact, according to one EFL club employee we spoke to this morning, the fear of having no live football until the New Year is very real. The problem is around the resumption of mass gatherings, and the belief that there could be additional waves of Covid-19 before the pandemic is over. Health organisations are not going to take undue risks and that may well mean football, as well as other sports, cannot resume until the new year.
That loss of matchday revenue would hit clubs hard, with a handful in League One and Two already wondering how they’re going to survive beyond the next four or five weeks. With no end in sight, we could see several clubs going bust before any games resume, even behind closed doors.
However, that problem is likely to be exasperated by rules around mass gatherings and although many fans believe the end of this season will see the next resume as normal, many clubs are bracing themselves for that not being the case. Indeed, the belief is rife amongst clubs that they may not be expecting to welcome fans through the gate before Christmas.
That would see football as we know it change significantly, something that clubs again are resigned to. Once this is all over players wages are likely to drop, certainly at ‘real’ EFL level and a number of clubs are not expected to survive at all. Even those with wealthy owners could come under intense pressure, as the businesses of said owners may also be taking a hit as well.
“A number of clubs are fearful for the next six to eight weeks, perhaps up to 70% of League One and Two at best,” our source said this morning.
“The games that are planned to take place behind closed doors are in doubt because some of those clubs expected to finish seasons might not be able to do so, even if we reconvene in June.
“Nobody can plan for the future as we just don’t know what the state of play will be. Football is certainly low on the list of priorities right now, clubs are finding it tough to strike a balance between empathy for players, fans and staff and serious financial planning for the future.
“The fact is that we are unlikely to see football played in front of filled grounds until January 2021. That’s an accepted possibility in the corridors of power.”
We might be in lockdown for three more weeks, we might see the intention to finish the current season before the end of July, but that won’t mean things will go back to normal. In fact, it is highly unlikely we’ll see what we consider to be ‘normal’ again as clubs, supporters and the general public face up to the prospect of severe cultural and financial changes in years to come.
Potentially, this is terrible news for football clubs. Behind the scenes, certainly at the League Two club we’ve spoken too, there’s a real fear for the existence of the EFL structure as we know it. The longer this goes on, the worse it is going to get and there s no ‘one size fits all’ solution for the EFL. The situation at West Brom or Nottingham Forest is likely to be very different from that of Morecambe or Stevenage.
There is a real fear, not just rumour or scaremongering, that the 2020/21 season could start without fans being allowed into matches. Whilst bigger clubs with television income could sustain that model, clubs at our level simply cannot. As supporters, facing up to the fact we may not enter our home ground for another six or seven months is incredibly difficult to envisage.