The inside track on season start date talks, salary cap plans and how they will affect Sunderland

EFL clubs are meeting today to discuss a potential start date for the 2020/21 season and controversial plans for the introduction of a salary cap.

Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 2:44 pm

Final decisions are unlikely to be taken on either, with salary cap plans likely to be voted on until later this month.

Sunderland CEO Jim Rodwell says two potential dates are under discussion regarding a potential resumption of action in League One.

He believes a date of September 12th could be realistic, but has warned that a decision would have to be made soon if that were to be the case.

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Sunderland are hopeful that some fans will be allowed into grounds when the new season begins

After a prolonged absence, clubs would need time to get their squads assembles and match fit, while the widespread furloughing of staff throughout the divisions will also leave much to be done in terms of preparations.

One of the key issues in setting a restart date is that many clubs in League One and League Two do not want to return if games are to be held behind closed doors.

Rodwell has previously said that the return of some fans is crucial.

It is not yet clear when the government will give clearance for this to occur.

As such, clubs are tentatively begin to explore how they will set up their grounds to cope with the demands of social distancing should they be given clearance.

Speaking earlier this week, EFL chairman Rick Parry said he was 'cautiously optimistic' about fans returning.

The green shoots of recovery are definitely there,” he told The Times.

“I don’t want to pre-empt what the government’s going to say in the next couple of weeks but the talk about spectators returning, albeit gradually, is definitely ramping up in volume at the moment.

“We absolutely mustn’t get complacent. I don’t think for one minute the virus is permanently vanished but compared with where we were even six weeks ago there are definitely grounds for cautious optimism.

“We are not out of the woods yet. I’ve never known a situation where there are so many moving parts and where there is so much uncertainty.”

All plans are clearly subject to how the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop.

"A couple of dates have been talked about, one is August 29 – I don’t see any chance of that happening – and the other is September 12, which I think is a possibility and it looks like it could work," Rodwell said.

"But even if we were going to do September 12, that decision would have to be made and set in stone pretty quickly because there is a lot of planning that would need to go in prior to that.

"September 12 sounds like a reasonable date, but we have to get fans back in grounds.

"I don’t think it will be a flat percentage of capacity that will apply to all grounds, that wouldn’t make sense because every ground is different.

"It will depend on government guidelines, the configuration of each stadium, the access to the stadium, and a million other factors.

"Initial guesstimates are that attendances will be capped at between 25 and 35 percent, depending on the individual ground," Rodwell added.

"There are some positives for us, for instance we have got a big stadium.

"But it’s a process that will be driven by the local authority which grants our licence, the SGSA [Sports Grounds Safety Authority], and the local SAG [Safety Advisory Group], and those types of organisations that will ultimately determine how many people we can have inside the stadium."

Sunderland are also set to stress their opposition to plans to impose a flat salary cap of £2.5 million on every team in the division (including agent fees).

Currently, clubs are prohibited under the SCMP rules from spending any more than 60% of their turnover on wages, though owners can get around this by injecting funds in the form of equity or donations.

Clubs have been sent the initial proposals for the cap, which will be discussed today ahead of a further review and a vote further down the line.

Significantly, a vote last month meant that the proposals will now need the support of just two-thirds of clubs, rather than three-quarters.

It's understood that the initial proposals do include transitional arrangements, to allow clubs time to bring their spending in line with any new cap.

Sunderland, though, are insistent that they should not be punished from having a turnover that will naturally exceed many of their divisional rivals.

"That will be one of the things discussed at Thursday's meeting," Rodwell said.

"We don’t think that the proposed flat cap on salaries makes sense.

"We are all for running sustainable football clubs, but sustainability is not the same as levelling the playing field.

"I think the EFL are oversimplifying the sustainability issue.

"For a lot of clubs in League One, a £2.5m cap on wages is highly attractive, but our argument is that as a big football club we can generate more revenue and therefore we should be able to spend that revenue on players while remaining sustainable,” he added.

"This issue is not supposed to be about level playing fields, it is supposed to be about sustainability and trying to avoid what has happened to Wigan today, and to Bury last summer.

"We agree with sustainability, but this is not the way forward at all."