Jim Rodwell discusses the fate of Sunderland's League One campaign and his 'day one priority' as CEO
Jim Rodwell believes that the League One season will finish behind closed doors, but says that Sunderland will prepare for all eventualities as the COVID-19 crisis continues.
Rodwell was recently appointed as the club’s new CEO and while the nationwide lockdown means he has not yet been able to travel to Wearside, he has begun work and one of his roles is representing Sunderland in dialogue with the EFL and fellow member clubs.
League One clubs are holding a video conference this afternoon after the weekly EFL board meeting on Wednesday.
It remains the EFL’s priority to complete the season over a 56-day period during the summer months, with Chairman Rick Parry already warning supporters that this will be behind closed doors.
It remains unclear whether this will be feasible, with the EFL admitting in a statement last Saturday that an extensive testing programme which does not detract from key workers will be essential.
There are also concerns regarding players whose contract expire at the end of June, the financial implications of playing without fans, and indeed whether it is at all possible to play while social distancing measures continue.
Rodwell admits ‘radical solutions’ may have to be considered at some stage.
“People are just trying to prepare for all eventualities,” he said.
“It’s just about the ‘when’.
“When can we go back to the Academy? When can we play again? Only when those types of things are known can we then plan for the following campaign.
“Until someone gives us that real steer, it’s unknown.
“My personal opinion is that we’ll finish this season behind closed doors.
“I do think we will finish and what I’m desperately praying for is that when we start next season, it will be in front of spectators,” he added.
“If those things don’t happen, then solutions could become a little bit more radical to be honest.
“I’m having conversations with Rick Parry and it’s a cliche, but it is an unprecedented time and we just don’t know.
“We’ve just got to make sure that whatever happens, we have contingency plans in place.”
Sunderland are planning for all possible outcomes but Rodwell says his priority, while the EFL still intend to complete the season, is to ensure that the club is in the best position possible to mount a promotion push in the final eight games.
“My day one job is to try and work out what will happen with this COVID-19 crisis, are we going to play, behind closed doors, what do the numbers look like,” he said.
“In that regard, the club already has a plan in place and they’re on with it.
“My day one job is to make sure I support Phil [Parkinson] and the team so that when we do come back, we’re the best prepared team in League One for eight games of football and maybe three more.
“That’s what will happen in this period, someone will adjust better than others and come through the pack to get promoted.
“We’ve got to try and make sure that’s us.
“If it doesn’t, we’ve got to go into League One next season better prepared.”