We’ve been contacted by a key official at an EFL club with a fascinating insight into when clubs are hoping to begin next season.
We’re currently on June 16th and would soon be expecting the fixtures for the new season, but as yet there is no clear pathway forward. An EFL meeting scheduled for this week is likely to shed some light on the situation, with a possible date having been floated around clubs for a while now. That date is September 12th.
Our source, who is an official for a midtable League Two side, explained how this date is significant.
“Clubs will be hoping to begin by September 12th in some shape or form. This date is critical for two reasons; firstly, it is perhaps the earliest clubs can expect to play games again.
“The current season is going to complete in July, with players contracts ending on July 31st. The players contracted at clubs are then scheduled for a two-week holiday; that is something they get as part of their agreement with clubs. Two weeks on from July 31st is August 14th.
“After that, there must be a five-week pre-season, which will take us to Saturday, September 12th as a possible start date. Coincidentally, it was revealed in last week’s talks that September 12th is also the very latest the season can kick off without changes to the format of one of the existing competitions.
“There is resistance to trimming the Leasing.com Trophy, as it is lucrative for poorer clubs and that will be vital next season. Cutting the League Cup wouldn’t make much difference financially to clubs, nor would it save much time, maybe a week or so. The FA Cup won’t be devalued as a rule and with 24-team divisions, the league format cannot change.
“We can’t run into next summer either, because of the Euros, so all efforts will be focused on a September 12th restart.”
Whilst that all makes sense, it doesn’t mean you’ll be heading to your local ground just yet, as our source continued.
“Grounds are likely to be either socially-distanced or closed completely. There is strong resistance to football behind closed doors, for the same reasons the season was curtailed early, clubs wouldn’t be able to survive.
“There has to be a blueprint in place for mass gathering from the government before anything solid is put forward, but people firmly predicting January 2021 may be premature. There is a desire to get fans into grounds before Bonfire Night, but only if it can be done safely. Nobody can predict how the situation with the virus will develop through the summer, but there is a feeling we could be back in grounds, in some capacity, in late autumn.”
The problems facing football clubs are lengthy and numerous; playing behind closed doors could drive them out of business, not starting the season could do the same and yet opening stadiums is entirely dependent on how the situation in the world develops. It does seem as though there is a real commitment to resuming in some form by September 12th though, which is a little under 3 months away.
Whilst it wouldn’t be football as we know it, not by a long stretch, it is the first sign of a tiny chink of light at the end of a very long tunnel. Only time will tell if this is accurate, with Friday’s meeting likely to shine further light on a complex and clouded Football League structure.