March 16, 2020 / 5:08 PM / 19 days ago

Integrity of English pyramid must be protected, says Leeds chief

LONDON (Reuters) - The integrity of the English soccer pyramid must be maintained by completing the current season, Leeds United chief Angus Kinnear said on Monday as administrators wrestled with an unprecedented shutdown caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Leeds are well-placed for a return to the Premier League for the first time since they were relegated in 2004, but their promotion bid has been put on hold after last week’s decision to suspend the season until at least early April.

With nine games left, Leeds are top of the Championship, one point ahead of West Bromwich Albion and seven ahead of third-placed Fulham with the top two automatically promoted.

There is no precedent for a season not being completed but with the coronavirus crisis likely to extend the shutdown, various scenarios have been suggested, one of which by West Ham United co-chairman Karen Brady could see the Premier League season declared “null and void”.

Another suggestion is for “playoffs” to decide who is relegated from the Premier League and promoted from the Championship if the season cannot be finished.

Taking the standings as they are at present is another potential solution, although that could have massive legal ramifications with so many issues still outstanding.

The EFL will meet this week with the clubs to discuss the way forward, as and when the coronavirus pandemic relents, and Kinnear said the groundswell of support will be for completing the current season as a priority.

“From our perspective it’s vital that the season is completed and there is a growing sense across the football family that is the right thing to do,” he told Sky Sports.

“It’s difficult to speculate on time lines, so we need patience and cool heads. But for the integrity of the football pyramid and the financial security of the clubs, finishing the leagues is the right thing to do.”

European soccer’s governing body UEFA is meeting on Tuesday when it is expected that the Euro 2020 tournament, scheduled for June, will be postponed until next year.

Kinnear said he supported such a move so that domestic leagues can be completed across the continent, even if matches are played behind closed doors.

“The timescale will be challenging but I don’t think it’s beyond the wit of man to see a scenario where the Football League and Premier League are completed later in the summer.

“The ultimate solution is to get back to playing football when it’s safe to do so.”

Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) chief Gordon Taylor also believes having ‘unfinished business’ would hurt the English game.

“It would devalue it and I think those clubs that have done well and are at the top deserve to be there,” he said.

“And those clubs who are at the bottom deserve to be given the chance to get out of trouble, because that’s how the game’s always worked and that’s how the competition was at the beginning.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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