No training return until May 16th 'at the earliest' - EFL

Training grounds have been closed for at least two weeks

Training grounds have been closed for at least two weeks

EFL chairman Ricky Parry has written to clubs to tell them that players should not return to training until Saturday May 16th "at the earliest".

Matches in the Premier League and EFL have been suspended since March 19th because of the coronavirus crisis, while all club training grounds have now been closed for at least two weeks.

Parry wrote to all Football League clubs yesterday following a regular weekly meeting of the EFL board. He said it was estimated that the three leagues (Championship, League One and League Two) would take "approximately 56 days to complete" and that "it is our working assumption... that matches will be played behind closed doors."

Parry said there was still a commitment to have two-legged play-off semi-finals and a final in each division and that the EFL "remain hopeful of a conclusion in the summer months."

He also advised that players who have not been furloughed should "be instructed to take time off, if they haven’t as yet done so."

Letter in full:

Dear Colleague,

COVID-19 – Board Update

I trust you are keeping well in what are increasingly strange and testing circumstances.

As you are aware, the EFL Board is committed to focusing fully on the EFL’s response to the coronavirus crisis and held its weekly meeting again today to consider a number of financial and operational matters affecting the League and its members.

I know this has been said, but I do believe it is important to reiterate that our primary objective remains to conclude the 2019/20 season when it is safe to resume playing and the options for a return are being kept under constant review.

As confirmed last Friday (3 April), EFL matches are currently postponed indefinitely and the EFL Board today determined that, to provide a level of certainty, Clubs should be advised not to recommence any training activity with players until 16 May at the earliest.

Whenever the decision is taken that is safe to resume, we currently estimate that the League will require approximately 56 days to complete the outstanding matches in the season (including Play-Offs) and we are committed to ensuring that Clubs are provided an appropriate notice period to ensure you are able to prepare operationally given the scale and impact of the postponements in place.

How and when we return (including training) is clearly subject to change and any decisions will be taken in conjunction with the Government and relevant health authorities. Clearly, we are in a position whereby the 2019/20 campaign will be extended, but still remain hopeful of a conclusion in the summer months. The EFL Board is currently working on the basis that the end-of-season Play-Offs will take place across all three divisions as normal with two-legged Semi-Finals and a Final, although no decision has been taken on the likely venue as it will depend on the circumstances at play at the time.

It is our working assumption at this stage that matches will be played behind closed doors when we eventually return and as part of our contingency planning we are absolutely mindful of the need to try and mitigate the cost of this to Clubs as best we can. As time goes on, we will provide more information in respect of our thoughts around this scenario.

With the continuing unpredictability around dates in mind, and the challenges we continue to face in respect of scheduling, the conclusion of the 2019/20 season and the commencement of the 2020/21 campaign, it is the view of the EFL Board that Clubs should consider their obligations to players in respect of annual leave and suggest those not currently furloughed be instructed to take time off, if they haven’t as yet done so. A further communication will be issued on this subject, alongside a summary on current player registration and contract matters by the close of play on Thursday.

In addition to the key operational issues, the Board discussed at significant length two areas that have been much discussed of late, Premier League support and PFA negotiations. In respect of the Premier League’s decision to advance £125m of funds to both the EFL and the National League, the EFL Board has taken the decision to put on hold the forwarding of advanced monies while additional clarity is sought on other financial matters, particularly in respect to player wages. I realise this is a pressing matter but, given the fact that these monies are earmarked for use in 2020/21, consideration is needed as to when is the best time to do so and therefore this will be discussed with Clubs when they meet on Thursday.

In addition, the formal discussions with the PFA are set to continue and I plan to have further conversations with PFA Chair Gordon Taylor ahead of tomorrow’s Club meetings in order to ensure I am able to appraise everyone of the very latest position at this time. In the context of these conversations and the broader solutions, it does remain important that we continue to focus on the short and medium term goals and achieving a solution for April payroll has to be the priority at present though, understandably, our aim is to provide Clubs clarity for planning purposes beyond this as quickly as possible.

Looking more long-term, the EFL must remain mindful of the implications that the extension of this season may have on the commencement of the 2020/21 campaign, although we will ensure there is a suitable break between the two, so as to allow Clubs and staff sufficient time to regroup and prepare accordingly.

I think there will be a sigh of relief as and when we reach that point, and what is clear right now is that COVID-19 continues to present hugely challenging and uncertain times for everyone, and our thoughts are with all those directly affected by the pandemic.

It is inevitable that the game takes a back seat as the country tackles the challenges posed by the outbreak, and I would like to place on record my thanks to all Clubs for their efforts in using their platforms to provide great resource and support to notable causes in their local communities, and long may that continue. Many families are coming to terms with the tragic loss of life of loved ones as the virus continues to take innocent lives and the thoughts of the League remain firmly focused on those affected in such circumstances.

The EFL, like all Clubs, is having to make many difficult decisions, but we remain fully committed to supporting the Government’s efforts, and decisions taken in respect of the League and its Clubs are done so to mitigate and manage the impact of the pandemic in line with the latest guidance provided by the relevant authorities.

If I may digress from COVID-19 matters for a moment, it is with regret and sadness that I must report that the League was saddened today to hear of the passing of Ian Stott, who was a much-respected figure within the game, and I’m sure many people will have fond memories of Ian for the impact he made as a former Chairman at Oldham Athletic and Football League Board member.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time, as they are too with those close to Barry Hearn, who is recovering at home after suffering a heart attack.

We are all committed to getting back to playing the game we love - but only when it is safe to do so, and thank everyone for their patience and understanding at this time.

Stay safe.

Yours sincerely,

Rick Parry

EFL Chairman

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