Sunderland and Pompey still on return paths as EFL mandates promotion and relegation

May 22 – How to definitively end the season in the three divisions of the English professional game below the top flight remains in the balance after the English Football League (EFL) ruled promotion and relegation must take place in the Championship, League One and League Two, regardless of whether clubs vote, or have already voted, to curtail the campaign.

League Two, the fourth and bottom tier, unanimously voted to end their season last week while League One clubs failed to reach an agreement.

“Resuming the 2019-20 season with the existing format remains the most appropriate course of action from a sporting integrity perspective,” the EFL said in a statement.

“But the board accepts there are circumstances that may lead to curtailment (as has been demonstrated with League Two) or a situation subsequently transpires whereby the season is unable to conclude.”

Playoffs will also take place with four teams from each division.

“The board has always acknowledged that a single solution to satisfy all clubs would always be hard to find,” EFL chairman Rick Parry said. “But we are at the point now where strong, definitive action is needed for the good of the League and its members.”

Talks last week stalled after at least six clubs in the third tier, including Sunderland, Portsmouth and Ipswich Town, said they wanted to continue league fixtures.

While League One could follow League Two in being curtailed, the Championship is hoping to resume in June alongside the Premier League.

Clubs voted to end the League Two campaign immediately on May15, also proposing that no team should be relegated to the National League. But now that the rules have changed, Stevenage would drop out of the league and into the top of non-league football known as the National League.

That, in turn, begs the still unanswered question of whether Barrow, currently the top side in the National League, would join the League Two ranks.

One option being discussed is that Barrow are promoted as National League champions to take the place of Bury who were expelled from the league earlier this season. That would make sense in terms of taking League Two up to its full quota of 24 clubs but the downside is that the National League itself would then have an odd number of teams.

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