League One and League Two will not be resumed following the coronavirus pandemic, with the English Football League confirming that clubs across both divisions have voted in favour of ending the 2019/20 season with immediate effect and determining the final standings via a points-per-game formula.
The play-offs will still be played across both leagues beginning next week, the EFL said on Tuesday, with finals due to be held at Wembley Stadium at the end of the month. Promotion and relegation are also set to go ahead as planned.
The announcement to end League Two, which received the backing of all but one club, will see Swindon Town crowned champions under the formula, which clubs agreed would consist of an unweighted home and away record multiplied by the number of outstanding games each club has remaining in the 2019/20 season. Crewe Alexandra and Plymouth Argyle will join Swindon in League One next season, with the top of the league table remaining as it was when the season was suspended in March.
With relegation going ahead as planned, Stevenage are set to be relegated to the National League. However, that could change if Macclesfield Town receive a further points deduction after the EFL brought misconduct charges against the club for failing to pay March salaries.
Having already been hit with an 11-point penalty this season with two points suspended, a further sanction is likely to drop them below Stevenage, who are three points adrift of Daryl McMahon’s side. It’s understood that the charge – which Macclesfield have vehemently denied and plan to fight – will be resolved before the play-offs are completed.
The League Two play-offs meanwhile will feature Cheltenham Town, Exeter City, Colchester United and Northampton Town to determine which side is promoted to League One, with fixtures also getting underway next Thursday and concluding with a Wembley final on Monday 29 June.
An extraordinary general meeting saw all clubs from the EFL represented via conference call on Tuesday, with the future of the third and fourth tiers the main concern over whether they would resume after a three-month hiatus.
It was confirmed that the Championship will resume this month to follow the Premier League’s example, but the sheer cost of testing as well as being forced to play games behind closed doors has forced League One and League Two to end their seasons.
Following a club vote, only one team in League Two voted in favour of continuing the season, which Forest Green Rovers chairman Dale Vince admitted was his.
“The question of whether to play out our season or quit has just been voted on,” Vince wrote on Twitter. “Only one vote in favour of playing on (FGR) surprised by that. So L2 season is done. Shame, but we’ll focus on the new one, whenever that comes and in whatever shape it takes.”
The decision followed an earlier vote to retain promotion, relegation and the play-offs and to use an unweighted points-per-game system to decide the final table with the season curtailed.
The model was the one set out by the EFL’s board, and the league said it was “overwhelmingly agreed” to adopt it into the competition’s regulations at a meeting on Tuesday.
Both Barnsley and Tranmere set out alternative plans to the one proposed by the EFL board, but both received less backing than the EFL’s plan.
Barnsley’s removed relegation in any division which had to be curtailed, while Tranmere’s suggested adding a margin for error to the basic points-per-game calculation – a plan which drew criticism for rivals as it would have saved the club from relegation this season.
Three other clubs – Lincoln, Ipswich and Stevenage – had also put forward amendments to the EFL board’s proposal, but the original plan set out by the league is the one which has been adopted.
EFL chairman Rick Parry said: “Whilst it has always remained the board’s position to play the remainder of the season where possible, the decision reached at today’s meeting follows a full and considered consultation period with our member clubs.
“The board has endeavoured to listen to all views and alternative approaches but understands that the decisions taken will not be met with universal satisfaction from all clubs.
“Today’s outcome ensures that the league and its clubs remains as faithful as possible to the previously agreed regulations and that there is consistency in the approach adopted across the EFL in all divisions if required.
“It is clear that the challenges facing the league from the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic are unprecedented and I thank the contribution of EFL clubs in making this important determination.”