Portsmouth chief executive Mark Catlin has suggested that there may be enough clubs undecided on the future of the League One season, to force a majority vote in favour of completing the third-tier season on the pitch.
A vote is set to take place next week to decide whether or not to play out the season’s remaining games, or cancel those matches and determine the final standings on a points per game basis, with the vote needing a 51% majority to pass one way or another.
As things stand, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Ipswich, Gillingham, Peterborough, Oxford, Tranmere and Fleetwood all want to play those outstanding games, and it seems Catlin is working to convince a number of other teams to join their cause.
Speaking to the Portsmouth News about the vote, Catlin said: “It’s a difficult situation but we continue to press with a number of other clubs to actually finish the season on the pitch, under government guidelines and when safe to do so. We have been consistent in that view.
“If you do the maths I would say there are nine or 10 who are firmly in the let’s play category. It only takes another couple to come onside with a handful undecided in the middle.
“It’s about trying to make as compelling a case as possible to those clubs who are currently wavering to vote to carry on.”
Despite that determination to carry on, it seems Catlin will have no arguments if League One clubs vote to curtail the season, as he continued: “If they don’t vote to carry on we have to appreciate that then becomes the majority rule of the EFL.
“Like it or not and as sickening as it would be we would have to then accept that decision. But there’s more than a couple still on the fence.”
It has been suggested that continuing the season will cost League One club somewhere between £350,000 and £450,000, although Catlin believes cancelling the campaign could prove just as costly, adding: “It’s easy to know at this moment what it will cost in terms of putting the games, in terms of taking players off furlough and testing.
“Each club will be broadly the same in that area because the kits cost the same and there’s a £2,500 furlough cap.
“But we don’t know what the cost is for cancelling in regards of impact on the Sky TV deal, loss of sponsorship, revenue, money for season-ticket holders whether by refund or credit and potential iFollow income.
“If we can get to a break-even figure surely it’s better to finish the season because the new season isn’t that far away.”
Indeed, discussing the impacts that a delay to a return to action could have on next season, Catlin concluded: “The longer we delay playing now the more we’re going to be kicking back next season. We could carry the same arguments over in regards to testing and unfurloughing players in two months’ time.
“I struggle to see what the cost differences are going to be in eight weeks’ time.”
If the season does resume, Portsmouth will be picking up in the midst of a battle for promotion to the Championship, with the Fratton Park club currently fourth in the League One table, two points off the automatic promotion places.
This is one that looks set to go right to the wire, and it is hard to know which would be the better outcome.
For some teams, it does seem as though playing out the campaign would be better for them, although others have suggested that the cost of testing and unfurloughing players means it would be too expensive to resume the campaign.
It is for that reason, that regardless of how teams eventually vote, there will need to be some form of support from elsewhere for teams at this level and below, to help them get through what will be an incredibly challenging period for one reason or another.