Sunderland keen for clarity on next season's start as Phil Parkinson reacts to League One vote
Phil Parkinson and Jim Rodwell say that clarity over when next season will be able to begin is going to be key in allowing clubs to start putting plans into action.
League One clubs voted to curtail the campaign by an ‘overwhelming majority’ on Tuesday, leaving Sunderland facing a third season in the third tier.
Parkinson and Rodwell met ahead of that decision to begin plotting the way forward, with significant turnover likely at the Stadium of Light this summer.
Defender Tommy Smith has already left the club after his short-term deal expired, while there are eight further senior players who will see their contracts expire on June 30th.
Josh Scowen is also set to become a free agent this summer, as will Bailey Wright after his contract at Bristol City expires.
Antoine Semenyo and Declan John have both left the club following the conclusion of the season.
Parkinson is keen to press ahead with his plans for the 2020/21 campaign, but thinks that for clubs throughout the league pyramid, knowing when the season will start is key.
Even more important in terms of planning budgets is knowing when supporters will be allowed back into the grounds.
“The key now is to work out when the season is going to start, and when crowds are going to be allowed back in because ultimately for all clubs that is going to determine levels of wages and budgets,” Parkinson said.
“Football will be government-led as far as letting fans back into stadiums, and that is when we can really start planning for next season.
“The consensus in football is that we have to do everything we can to get supporters back into grounds before we start next season.
“If thing keep on progressing in the way they are in the country, then we have to say that things are looking increasingly promising on that.
“As much as the EFL has come in for criticism, it has been very difficult for them because these are unprecedented circumstances and there have been so many different scenarios for them to consider.
“Now we just hope that it won’t be too long a wait until we get clarification over when next season can start.”
Sunderland’s view was that finishing the season behind closed doors was preferable to curtailing the campaign, but CEO Rodwell admits that supporters being allowed back into the ground is vital.
He believes it may be a case of beginning initially with reduced capacities.
Clubs are yet to receive any guidance from the EFL as to a potential start date for the new season and what the circumstances could be.
“We briefly in our second meeting on Tuesday touched on the subject but it is going to depend on the virus and the government,” Rodwell said.
“For me, it’s about getting fans in the stadium.
“I don’t believe you can start the season without fans.
“If it has to be with a reduced capacity, then that’s what we have to accept.
“Supporters, fans are the difference between professional football and anything else.
“We’ve got to find a way of getting fans into grounds safely.
“I do think things are going in the right direction, but no one can give real assurances.”
Parkinson says he was expecting clubs to vote to curtail the current campaign on Tuesday.
The Black Cats boss had expressed his preference for an extended play-off campaign, but says his focus now is on ensuring that the squad is ‘as strong as it can be’ for next season, whenever that begins.
“It was a decision we were expecting, and as soon as we knew it was going to go to a vote of clubs, we knew that everyone was going to vote for their own self-interests,” he said.
“We wanted the season to finish in the normal way and I still feel that that could have happened.
“Then two or three weeks ago there was a suggestion – and originally it came from the EFL themselves – that there could be an extended play-off and obviously we favoured that as an option if the season could not be completed.
“But when it went to a vote we knew what the outcome would be.
“We are frustrated because the race for the play-offs had been so tight and I still felt that second place was definitely up for grabs.
“We can all look back at this game and that game and the what ifs, but really we have to look forward.
“We have to utilise this time to build the squad and make sure that when we come back we are as strong as we can be, and that we have a team out on the pitch that our supporters can relate to, and make sure that we get out of this league next season.”
League One clubs have already begun to reduce their squads as the financial impact of the COVID-19 continues to take hold.
AFC Wimbledon have announced the departure of 11 players out of contract this month, while Accrington Stanley have also announced that five players will leave upon the expiration of their current deals.