Promotion-chasing clubs give their reaction after League Two season is cancelled
Clubs chasing promotion out of League Two have been giving their reaction to the news that the 2019/20 season will be brought to an immediate conclusion due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At a meeting on Friday, the 24 clubs were said to be in agreement to curtail the season and call off all remaining fixtures due to the costs that would be involved in staging games behind closed doors, plus paying for players to take coronavirus tests.
However, if ratified by the EFL and FA, promotion is still expected to take place with the top three heading for League One and the next four teams - including the Cobblers - facing each other in the play-offs as normal.
Here's how clubs at the top end of the division have reacted to the news...
Swindon Town, who would leapfrog Crewe Alexandra to be crowned champions, have yet to make any official comment but several of the club's players posted trophy emjois on their social media accounts while manager Richie Wellens tweeted: 'Even more good news today, great day."
Crewe are set to join Swindon in League One next season and while they haven't commented on Friday's announcement, earlier in the week manager David Artell gave his views on the situation.
“The most important thing for me is that if we are to return that it is totally safe to do so and then it is about making sure clubs survive," he said. "We want clubs to survive and for the football pyramid to stay intact.
“Football is like any other business when the revenue streams are not there. It is tough times for a lot of people and clubs going out of business is the worst-case scenario. I think we should all be working towards making sure that doesn’t happen because no-one wants to see what happened to Bury last season.”
Plymouth Argyle will finish third under a PPG game method but they have been quick to stress that nothing is official yet.
"We understand that fans will, rightly, want to celebrate the achievements of Ryan Lowe and his first-team squad," said the club in a statement. "We endeavour to be as transparent as possible throughout this process and will update supporters as and when we have more information to share.
"In the meantime, we will continue to work with the EFL, its member clubs and key stakeholders to reach a solution."
Cheltenham Town and Exeter City, who'd finish fourth and fifth respectively using an unweighted PGG model, are both disappointed to lose the opportunity to have a crack at automatic promotion.
"Money will be the sole reason for having the play-offs I guess," said Robins skipper Ben Tozer. "If you're having play-offs, why not just finish the whole season?
"If you'd have said at the start of the season that we'd be in the play-offs come the end of the season, we'd have snapped your hand off. But when football stopped, if you'd have said play-offs we'd have sniffed at it because we were the most in-form team in the league. We were only looking one way and that was to win the league."
Exeter chairman Julian Tagg added: "It's tough to take because we were well in the hunt for automatic promotion but while the club's first choice would have been to complete the season as per normal, the costs for doing so - not only from Exeter City's point of view but perhaps more so for the rest of the clubs in the league - was a big ask.
"It was way above the means of a huge number of clubs in the league so the chances of getting unanimous support for such a proposal was extremely slim, and therefore there was a need to accept what was best for football as a whole."
Meanwhile, Colchester United chairman Robbie Cowling praised the unity of the whole league, saying: "For the first time I've ever known and for something as complicated, all 24 clubs were in agreement.
"It's amazing for clubs like Bradford and Port Vale, who've been up there all season, to be in agreement. It was very magnanimous of them. As it turns out our 3-0 win at Carlisle, the last game we played, has proved pivotal."
Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas also welcomed the 'clarity' that came with the decision to end the season while Port Vale co-owner Carol Shanahan 'came away shaking' after also voting for such proposals despite her side narrowly missing out on the top seven.
She said: "It's the hardest thing I've ever done but it was for the greater good. I think it was the right thing to do."
Bradford City are another club who will be pipped to the play-offs on PPG but they were equally philosophical about the situation.
Director of communications Ryan Sparks told BBC Look North: "Essentially, continuing the season became a question of 'was it the right thing to do?' Spending more money, using vital testing.
"From a moral perspective, we were quite uncomfortable with that in addition to the financial implications it would have. We sit ninth and have nine games left to play which could get us into the play-offs, but the cost of attempting to do that could put us in a serious financial position in addition to the other teams in the division.
"Ultimately, you have to be realistic about the integrity and future of the competition."