Sunderland could return to League One action next month - and with fans in the Stadium of Light

Sunderland could return to League One action as early as next month – according to one chief executive.

Saturday, 4th July 2020, 3:00 pm

Third tier clubs met with the EFL on Thursday to discuss the next steps for the 2020/21 season after the early curtailment of the most recent campaign, with a restart date high on the agenda.

And Shrewsbury Town chief executive Brian Caldwell has confirmed that two return dates – August 29 and September 12 – are currently under discussion.

Neither are without their issues, though. Were the season to resume in August, there are concerns over how clubs could cope without assistance from the government’s job retention scheme. A September restart, meanwhile, would lead to a more crowded fixture schedule.

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Sunderland could return to League One action as early as next month

“If we were to vote on the 29th of August that would mean nine midweek matches instead of the normal five, with no runs of three league midweek games in a row,” explained Caldwell, speaking to Shrewsbury’s official website.

“If we were to vote on the 12th of September this would firstly mean a broken start to the new campaign as some Clubs may have players away on international duty for up to ten days. On top of that, midweek matches would become 11 instead of five therefore meaning that there could be three midweek games back to back. Part of the issue is the loss of furlough from an earlier return on 29th August.

“Either option will cause a backload which is why it’s important to try and get crowds in if we can.”

And it’s that return of supporters will prove key for club when voting on the season start date.

There are hopes that whenever the season begins, some level of crowds could be allowed to watch games – with Caldwell confirming that the EFL have been holding discussions with the government.

“The EFL stated that they have been in discussion with the government for several weeks now regarding fans returning safely to grounds with social distancing measure still in place,” he added.

“They are currently looking at this around reduced capacity in stadiums

“The EFL are working closely with the SGSA on a study to look at crowd flows and social distancing to help ensure some form of fans can return to games safely on a potential reduced attendance.

“I think the main thing for fans to take away from this is that everything is being done to try and ensure fans can return to matches as soon as possible providing it’s safe of course. It was mentioned that they are working closely with government and the relevant authorities with the goal of hopefully having the possibility of fans even on reduced attendances returning for the start of next season all being well.

“The EFL updated Clubs on the potential for streaming of matches but stressed that streaming is a Plan B and all efforts must be put towards allowing fans to return to matches safely,” he continued.

“Streaming is not being viewed as a replacement for fans in the stadium but as an alternative.”