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Bowyer sees red in points race


League Managers Association’s Howard Wilkinson

League Managers Association’s Howard Wilkinson

League Managers Association’s Howard Wilkinson

Howard Wilkinson's suggestion that the Championship should be decided on a points-per-game basis in the event of curtailment was met with strong opposition from Lee Bowyer, the Charlton Athletic manager, during a League Managers Association (LMA) conference call.

Wilkinson, a former title-winning Leeds United manager, was speaking in a video conference with Championship managers on Friday, which had been organised by the LMA so members could raise concerns with Rick Parry, the chairman of the English Football League (EFL).

Wilkinson, 76, the LMA chairman, said that he had looked at statistical analysis which he claimed demonstrated that there was often little positional change in the final nine games of a season.

Bowyer, whose side only slipped into the bottom three in their last game before lockdown, a 1-0 defeat against Middlesbrough on March 7, strongly opposed the notion - as he has since done publicly when the issue has been raised. The two men, who both have a significant history with Leeds United, disagreed on the points-per-game approach, which has been provisionally agreed by League Two clubs, although not in League One.

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The issue was left unresolved and the managers are unclear just how the EFL will go about deciding the Championship, should the league season be curtailed.

Nevertheless, they were left in no doubt of the huge cost to the 24 clubs were they to push ahead and play their remaining nine games each. It was estimated that a full testing programme for Covid-19, of the kind that the Premier League expects to have in place from the start of this week, would cost around £200,000 per club.

For those clubs who have little hope of promotion or even a play-off place, the cost of extending contracts that were due to expire on June 30 as well as additional staff costs is prohibitive. That burden could affect their budgeting for some years as many face the prospect of games behind closed doors well into next season - whenever that might begin. Even if they committed to investment in testing and contract extensions, there was no guarantee the season would go ahead.

Both Parry and David Cookson, the EFL competitions officer, attempted to explain the options open to the managers, although there was no single approach to resolving the season that could be agreed. Officially, the EFL view is that the Championship still wants to play its remaining matches. Ultimately, it will be the clubs themselves that direct the EFL board.

The points-per-game approach would mean Leeds were champions, with West Bromwich Albion taking the second promotion place, although whether curtailment would affect the Premier League's attitude towards their own clubs' relegation remains unclear. Marcelo Bielsa, the Leeds manager, was not on the call.

The Leeds representative was listed as one of Bielsa's assistants, although his video was not activated and there was no contribution.

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