Colin Lee: Play-offs decision has no benefit
- Credit: Dan Weir/PPAUK
I was amazed but not surprised that League One and League Two clubs voted to curtail their 2019-20 campaigns apart from the play-off fixtures with the table being decided on points per game.
A majority of 71 EFL sides agreed to change the regulations surrounding how to end their respective league's season, in the event of the campaigns being cut short due to the impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
If you analyse the voting decision, it was always going to be in favour of the points-per-game system being implemented.
The teams who were gaining promotion using the points system were always going to vote in favour, the teams looking over their shoulder in a relegation battle were always going to vote in favour and the teams who were mid table with no fear of relegation or little chance of promotion again were always going to vote in favour of the points-per-game system to prevent an extra cost to have their players tested for the coronavirus.
I think the system is unfair and I am not in favour of such a one-sided decision and feel that football league positions should have been decided on the field of play and a solution found to make this possible.
I totally understand first and foremost people's lives are far more important than playing games and the safety of players and staff comes first but to adopt a points system then contradict the decision by forcing four teams to play in the play-offs is hard to understand.
Not only will the play-offs create an extra cost of between £140,000 and £150,000 per club, even factoring in the television money for each club, it totally makes a mockery of the points-per-game decision.
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Surely having agreed to implement a points-per-game decision, the fairest and most sensible and safest way to conclude the League One and League Two campaign would have been to award the club finishing in fourth position automatic promotion?
This would then allow all clubs to complete the campaign at the same time with no risk to player or staff and no extra costs to the clubs competing in the play-off matches.
The four clubs now involved in the play-offs - Exeter City, Northampton Town, Colchester United and Cheltenham Town - now need to have their players tested for the coronavirus twice a week creating a further cost of approximately £120,000-£130,000 per club with only one of the four clubs gaining promotion, players with a positive result will need to self-isolate for seven days, which means any player/players who are tested positive could be out of the whole play-off campaign, leaving their squad short of players and the preparation and hard work leading into the games including these players would have been wasted.
Another issue for clubs to overcome is the social distancing understanding.
To adopt the social distancing rules players will need to travel by bus, while the coaching staff will need to travel in their own cars, players and staff will also need to travel on the day of the game regardless of the distance.
If you take Exeter City, who face Colchester United, they will need to make the 250-mile journey on the day of the game which creates a very early start to complete what could be a five- to six-hour journey.
This is totally different to their normal preparation for such a massively important game and becomes another psychological obstacle for players to overcome.
From a purely financial point of view, the decision to conclude the final promotion position through play-offs has no benefit.
With only one club gaining promotion, it is a significant risk for the clubs involved and irrespective of promotion or not, they will all start next season with an handicap having completed the season with a cost/ debt created by in my opinion an avoidable decision.