Championship clubs are reportedly looking at the possibility of “group administration”.
The Daily Mail claim second tier chiefs are considering what they are calling “the nuclear option” amid the fallout from the coronavirus crisis.
That would involve all 24 teams – including Stoke City – agreeing to go into administration, with owners then being able to buy the clubs back before they negotiate new contracts.
However, the Mail adds “there would be legal implications and it would require huge trust from all teams”.
The report states: “Owners and chief executives in the second tier of English football have had conversations about a process known as group administration, the last desperate act to avoid ruin, if no common ground can be found.
“It would need the agreement of all 24 clubs and require an enormous amount of trust from all sides, but it would change the face of the English game long beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
“Group administration would involve every Championship club being placed into administration on the same day. Staff would be temporarily let go. Entire playing staffs would become free agents.
“Each owner would then buy the club back and negotiate contracts anew. It would be a doomsday scenario, a recalibration of the entire football industry.”
The Mail say it is an idea which has been discussed amid the ongoing row over possible wage cuts for players, as clubs look to cope with the financial implications of the COVID-19 outbreak.
They claim English Football League chairman Rick Parry is aware of the discussions which “should serve as a distress signal that clubs face financial disaster”.
The report says the current penalties for teams entering administration would need to be waived and agreements would need to be reached around not poaching players – but Championship clubs “have discussed a binding agreement between the members of that league at least”.
It is said sides would then be bought back from administration by the same owners and staff re-employed, with future salary cap rules also part of the discussion.
The Mail outline a number of potential legal consequences which would result, as well as the fact clubs would have to reapply to join the Football League.
They say: “What it does, then, is reveal the growing gulf between elements of the game; the resentment, the distrust and the panic that the coronavirus has wrought.
“Without doubt, there are owners who fear their club could fold unless running costs are swiftly addressed; without doubt, their greatest expense will be player wages.”
And they add: “So the talks around group administration are almost a scorched earth policy. If the clubs are going down, it all burns with them.”