So, today was the day. The day we knew would come, the day when EFL clubs voted on how to end the season. The day Tranmere were demoted by fellow clubs in a selfish display of short-sighted self-preservation. The day we will never forget, nor forgive.
Yet Rick Parry, the EFL “board” and many of its clubs seemed to leave little undecided ahead of the vote, which obviously draws a spotlight on what kind of process this was.
Play-off TV coverage apparently decided and reportedly the only four teams in League One that have had coronavirus tests are placed 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th (post PPG, that is).
Reading social media and press articles over the past 48 hours, the writing was on the wall.
In taking this course of action, the EFL has effectively sent out a message that they are happy to punish well-run smaller clubs to protect some of those supposed bigger clubs. Clubs who cut their cloth and run themselves in a business savvy way, while still earning successive promotions in doing so, have no place in the top three tiers of English football, it seems. Rules will be changed midway through a season with no regard for them.
By adopting a business model that allowed Tranmere to strengthen every single January and so to end the season strongly, Tranmere owners Mark and Nicola Palios put the club in a position to compete.
The management kept the squad in touch with whichever pack we needed to be in touch with during the first half of the season. Once January came and went, we strengthened, kicked-on and got the job done.
This isn’t an excuse or popular theory, it’s fact. Look at the last three seasons for evidence of a plan that works.
Three play-off campaigns, two promotions. No fluke. Shrewd and intelligent business management off the pitch, excellent team management on the pitch. We’re a sustainable club who know how to live within our means and still be competitive.
What’s the point?
Clearly a better solution would to be to break Financial Fair Play Rules to build a huge squad – that doesn’t seem to get reprimanded.
Maybe refuse to play a couple of fixtures when our squad is tired and take a little rap on the knuckles in the form of a suspended penalty.
This is the world we seemingly live in.
So, instead, those with money, those who have the luxury of building a squad strong enough for the entire season – whether they can truly afford it or not – and fight with that squad for that full campaign will come through the other side.
The precious income from the play-offs will no doubt paper over more cracks, both in the EFL as a – what is in our opinion – now broken organisation which is no longer fit for purpose and within those member clubs paying extortionate wages which they almost certainly cannot fairly cover under an Financial Fair Play Model. A model that appears about as rigorous and secure as the spine of the organisation that supposedly governs it.
There are clubs who will benefit from PPG and end up in the play-offs who are carrying Premiership youngsters on-loan who have salaries at their parent clubs nearing £40k per week. Must be one hell of a loan agreement they’ve set-up to ensure that fits inside of financial fair play. Oh, but also vote to finish the season because they cannot afford to play on.
This is League One.
Hypocrisy runs deep.
Wycombe Wanderers are one of many examples. They seemingly voted to end the season because they cannot afford to play on and are happy for PPG to be used to come up with the final table. That, incidentally, magically propels them from EIGHTH position up into the play-offs. Which obviously, they appear happy to ‘afford’ to play in for a shot at promotion to the Championship.
Rotherham will be handed automatic promotion that frankly, they have not yet earned. They have a two-point cushion, nothing more. Two points. That is not a promotion-winning margin in March. If a two-point cushion in March is enough to win promotion, we’d have been a Premier League club in the mid-1990s.
By the way, the BBC has updated the League One table to reflect the final positions tonight. Feast your eyes on this absolute farce.
Or shall we look toward the bottom of the division at the rank hypocrisy of clubs that will vote to end the season on PPG merely to keep their heads above the relegation line for another year?
AFC Wimbledon, who in our opinion have gone from a hard-working, fan-owned, bucket-shaking good news story to potentially voting to demote Tranmere to keep themselves safe for another 12 months. Despite their heroic escape last season, they may have effectively voted to prevent Tranmere from being afforded the same opportunity to save themselves that they were afforded last year.
Voting onside with MK Dons as well, it would seem. Either hell has frozen over or they have as much integrity as those in the EFL hierarchy. Zero.
We’ve spoken to an agent today about players at a certain League One club who will benefit from Tranmere’s demotion. That club voted to end the season with PPG to avoid any prospect of relegation yet are refusing to pay their players their end of season bonuses because the season will not have finished.
So, which is it?
If you’re saying PPG is a fair tool for keeping you in the division, then pay your players for doing so. Classless and hypocritical. We understand the PFA are now involved on that one, so expect that to play out publicly at some point.
We also heard from Mark Palios a couple of days ago on Twitter, stating that clubs were also planning to avoid voting in favour of Tranmere’s proposal merely because it opens up an additional relegation place in League One NEXT season and that would increase the risk of them being relegated next year.
They are voting to improve their chances of avoiding failure next season as well, despite knowing full well the punishment that Tranmere will be dealt to facilitate that.
So, it went as expected today. Hopefully those acting with short-sighted self-interest rather than with any concerns about the so-called ‘integrity’ of the game will have karma come at them, and their clubs, in double quick time.
And when it’s time to shake a bucket to cover for the most recent gamble which backfired or to ask for a favour to fill out a petition or lobby an MP, don’t even dare think to darken our door with your problems.
You have voted to change the rules which your club had agreed to play by in MID-SEASON. You did so with no regard for the fact you are relegating a club by an imaginary 0.04 of a point. A club with a game in hand against a relegation rival, which was the form team in the division, had all of its relegation rivals still to play and had ran themselves in a way that allowed them to strengthen the squad ready for this exact moment in the campaign.
This is the beautiful game, apparently.
A game that brings us all together in a time of need.
League One clubs, and those at the EFL, have managed to somehow use it to divide clubs and fans more than ever before.
That, in short, is why Rick Parry, Debbie Jevans and the rest of the EFL board requires immediate dismissal. The buck stops with them.
They should hang their heads in shame tonight at the mess they have created, an unjust, unfair and unsporting mess.
Parry in particular, supposedly born in South Wirral and educated in Merseyside, he should have at least known what his seemingly spineless inaction could lead to.
What the borough’s only professional football club means to the community. How this act would almost certainly cost a seven figure sum, potentially costing jobs and maybe halting projects that would benefit that same community from which was just a short drive from the grammar school in which he was educated.
But instead he seemed content to sit back and let clubs vote on who should go up and down. Presumably so he could say that he went with the wishes of the EFL’s member clubs?
That is sign of a weak man. In our opinion, he’s not fit to lead a a family of ducklings across a road, let alone a once-prestigious football organisation through a time of crisis.
The damage done here is irreparable.