Opinion: League One talks cannot drag on much longer - clubs need to follow in Sunderland's lead and make their intentions clear
Another week has passed, and yet we seem no closer to clarity.
Today’s meeting of League One club representatives yielded no definitive outcome. We are no closer to knowing whether the season will resume or be cancelled; whether promotion is a possibility for clubs like Sunderland.
In some ways, this isn’t a bad thing.
For clubs who want to see the season continue, such as Sunderland and the ‘rebel six’ who voiced their opinions on Thursday evening, it provides hope that League One could yet be completed.
And by the time clubs convene next week, their case could have been strengthened.
At the start of this week, the cancellation of the season looked inevitable - only for fresh government advice to open the door to a potential return in June.
Should things continue to progress in a similarly positive way, then who knows where we will be by next Friday?
But therein lies the problem.
Nobody knows what will happen next, both in football and in the wider community. While this week has seen some positive steps taken towards a return, next week could see those plans come crashing down as this unpredictable virus continues to spread.
What clubs need more than anything now is clarity, yet they have none.
We don’t know when, or indeed if, this season will resume.
We don’t know how clubs are going to deal with the financial implications of playing football behind closed doors, which seems inevitable for the next seven months.
We don’t know how the proposed salary cap restrictions could affect clubs next year.
All this in turn makes planning on a local scale far harder.
For Sunderland, it complicates contract discussions and transfer plans as the clock ticks down on the deals of a number of key players.
They aren’t alone in this regard, but clubs cannot act without some form of clarity.
This needs to come quickly.
There could be an argument put forward that Sunderland have somewhat contributed to this uncertainty, given their desire to see the season completed when we are led to believe the majority of League One want to see the season end.
But can you blame Sunderland for taking that stance? I certainly won’t.
Gary Neville was quick to chime in with his view that Sunderland had joined the ‘self-interest festival of football’ after declaring their position on resuming the season.
What exactly did he expect? For Sunderland to back plans to end the season, which would consign them to a third season in League One?
Why would they back plans that could see them miss out on millions of pounds because of missing out on promotion, when there was a chance - and a good one, at that - that their aim could still be achieved had the remaining fixtures been completed?
And most importantly from the club’s position, why would they vote to cancel the season when we have no idea what comes next?
All we really know is that by ending the season, Sunderland would be condemned to a third season in League One.
One key issue with ending the season would be from a financial perspective, with Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony suggesting that it would cost more to cancel the campaign than it would to complete it.
So at this point in time, when every penny counts, you can see why clubs are coming around to the idea of finishing the campaign.
So yes, Sunderland’s stance comes from a point of self-interest - but that is no bad thing.
I respect Sunderland’s right to fight for what they believe in, and this cannot drag on for weeks on end.
We are told that League One clubs have plenty of talking left to do, but there comes a time where more definitive action is needed.
It now looks as if it could be up to a fortnight until any vote over the outcome of the season takes place, given that the EFL need to provide notice to clubs before a ballot can take place.
So if clubs are serious about completing the season, we need action quickly.
Sunderland have pinned their flag to the mast and declared their voting intentions, and now other clubs must do the same.
While the Black Cats, Portsmouth, Peterborough and others have been vocal in their desire to continue playing – and Wycombe and Southend have expressed their counter-arguments – other clubs have maintained a radio silence.
This helps nobody.
Skeptics, of course, could argue that these clubs may well be dragging their feet until we reach a point where they can turn around and say ‘oh, we tried, but it’s too late now’, rather than explicitly saying they want the campaign to end.
We will likely never know whether that is truly the case, but any club delaying talks needs to consider the real consequences of their actions.
Because this isn’t just about a game.
Decisions about people’s jobs, their livelihoods, will hinge on these talks - and we’re not just talking about footballers here, but the people who work in the ticket office, catering and the business side of clubs.
Clubs owe it to them to make a decision quickly.