What EFL emergency coronavirus plans mean for Stoke City


The EFL held an emergency meeting on Wednesday at their headquarters in Preston to discuss the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Stoke City ‘s Championship campaign is currently suspended until at least April 3 as a result of the global pandemic.

However, the EFL insists it is committed to bringing this season to a “successful conclusion” when matches are able to resume.

The League has also announced a £50million short-term relief package to assist cash-strapped clubs during this uncertain time for the sport.

Here is a round-up of what came out of the board meeting…

The EFL issued a statement, which began: “After receiving a detailed brief on a number of matters, the board reaffirmed that the health and well-being of EFL staff, players, club employees and supporters would remain central to all decisions in these fast-changing circumstances.

“The EFL Board also acknowledges the positive role that member clubs are playing in community solidarity, especially in supporting the vulnerable at this time.”

Now for the plan…

2019-20 SEASON SCHEDULE

The primary objective, in order to protect competition integrity, is to deliver a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season, subject to the over-riding priority around health and well-being. Plans continue to be developed on the agreed principle that it is in the best interests of the EFL and clubs to complete the current season at the appropriate time.

The EFL is continuing regular dialogue with the Government and relevant health authorities and, as and when more information is known regarding the scale and extent of the coronavirus outbreak in this country, a decision will be taken on the resumption of the League’s fixtures.

Conversations will continue with the EFL’s counterparts at the FA, the Premier League, the PFA and the LMA to ensure football achieves a joined-up and collaborative approach.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT

As part of the League’s continued contingency planning, the Board heard the comments and observations from EFL clubs, before discussing a number of issues including the current financial position and implications, insurance, regulatory matters and broadcasting arrangements.

Discussions centred on financial relief for clubs in the short term and while there is no one single solution, measures are to be put in place to immediately assist with cash flow via a £50million short-term relief package.

This fund consists of the remaining Basic Award payments being advanced to clubs immediately, with the remainder made up through interest-free loan facility available to clubs, calculated in line with the EFL’s Article of Associations.

The cash injection is included as part of a series of measures, that includes potential Government support to help clubs and their associated businesses through this period of uncertainty. The EFL welcomes last night’s announcement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and is continuing discussions to understand how our clubs can access the funding made available to support businesses.

In addition, we will continue our discussions with our football partners to determine how we can all get through this difficult, challenging and unprecedented situation.

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CONTINGENCY PLANNING

The EFL, through a dedicated taskforce, continues to review the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, and its impact on our clubs and competitions.

Alongside ensuring the 2019/20 season reaches a successful conclusion, protecting the EFL and its clubs is a key priority for the EFL Board, who have today agreed on the following objectives to support future decision-making:

• Ensure the health and well-being of our clubs’ employees, supporters and communities

• Make a positive contribution to the UK’s efforts to tackle coronavirus

• Protect the EFL’s financial model and club finances

• Enable the EFL to continue to function as a business

• Deliver a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season

Further delay?

The EFL has hinted at a further delay to Stoke’s season due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As it stands, the season is due to resume on April 3, though there are serious doubts as to whether that will be possible.

No official announcement has been made but the EFL has confirmed that the Leasing.com Trophy final between Salford City and Portsmouth – scheduled to be played on April 5 – has been postponed.

“Over 50,000 tickets have been sold for the showpiece final, and the EFL does not want to be in a position whereby many thousands of supporters are forced to change their plans at late notice, so the decision has been taken in the best interest of all parties,” said the EFL.

The Football League is committed to completing this season – and UEFA’s decision to postponed Euro 2020 until next year could potentially allow for that to happen.

It is hoped that domestic campaigns can be finished by the end of June.

Stoke’s games against Reading, Middlesbrough and Wigan Athletic have been called off so far.

Michael O’Neill’s men are due to resume with a home fixture against Barnsley on Saturday, April 4 – though that remains in doubt.

The Potters are 17th in the table – three points clear of the relegation zone – with nine matches to play.

Plans are ‘realistic’

EFL chairman Rick Parry believes plans to complete the season are “realistic” and “essential”.

“We discussed all the aspects of the virus and potential outcomes and permutations – and reaffirmed our commitment to finishing the season on the pitch,” Parry told Sky Sports.

“We want it to be competitive, we want promotion and relegation places decided properly.

“We believe it’s realistic – in fact we believe it’s essential, because we want to finish competitively, we want the right decisions to be taken on the pitch.

“Frankly, we believe it’s more important to finish this season than to talk about next season.”

‘We’ll get through this’

Parry also issued a rallying cry to Stoke City and their EFL counterparts, assuring clubs: “We’ll get through this if we stick together.”

A £50million short-term relief package has been put together to help clubs during the current shutdown.

Such news will be a welcome shot in the arm to teams, with the Covid-19 outbreak leaving League One and League Two clubs facing a reported £50m black hole.

“In terms of immediate financial concerns for clubs, which are acute, we’ve approved a package of £50million to go from EFL coffers to clubs by way of this season’s distributions and an advance of money,” Parry told Sky Sports.

“So that will tide them over for a little while, while we continue to then explore taking advantage of, for example, the range of measures which the chancellor has been announcing in recent days (to assist businesses), which are really helpful.

“It’s all a case of one week at a time. Let’s take this step and then we’ll consider what the next step is.

“We look forward to further dialogue with the FA and Premier League tomorrow (Thursday) to make sure we’re in step with our partner governing bodies.”

On the EFL’s response to this fast-moving situation, Parry added: “It’s a case of cool heads, being calm, listening. Everybody has got a valid view. Nobody has got the right answer in this.

“It’s unprecedented. There isn’t a manual, there’s no rule book which tells you how to do this.

“what we all said today is, we’ll get through this if we stick together, and if we stay calm.

“It’s not a time for fragmentation, it’s not a time for listening to rumour. It’s a case of all trying to pull together, recognising the challenges and recognising that we have a vast ranges of clubs, from the biggest to the smallest.

“They all face the same challenges, we all want to move forwards together for as long as we possibly can.”





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