The English Football League’s preferred contingency for promotion from the Championship if the season cannot be completed as normal would be to promote Leeds and West Brom, who are clear in first and second place, and to play the play-offs as per current positions to determine the final spot.
The play-off semi-finals would see Fulham face Preston and Brentford take on Nottingham Forest and could be played as one-off ties on neutral turf behind closed doors, rather than the usual two legs.
The Championship occupies a kind of middle position between the Premier League, which is confident of finding the ways and means to finish the season, and League One and League Two, whose best efforts may not be enough. There are growing fears for the bottom two divisions because – with no widespread broadcast market for their games – playing behind closed doors would be a massive drain on finances.
The Championship wants and intends to complete the season but as its clubs wait to be informed on how protocols for behind-closed-doors matches would work – and how difficult they could be to fulfil – it has been prudent to discuss contingencies that could offer some integrity to the final table.
With the caveat that government and public health advice could yet override everything, the working theory is that if the Premier League could potentially play numerous matches, the Championship ought to be able to stage at least three to resolve its play-offs. It is unclear how it would work out the issue of relegation.
What the Championship is banking on in terms of promotion is that the Premier League is able to finish and, in doing so, resolve its relegation spots. If it could not, with the standings so tight – four points separate 15th-placed Brighton from 19th-placed Aston Villa, with Villa having a game in hand – it would be extremely difficult to determine which clubs drop down on sporting merit. That unhappy scenario would open up a raft of legal challenges, either from relegated Premier League clubs or those from the Championship denied promotion.
There would be the option of freezing relegation from the Premier League and allowing promotion from the Championship but an enlarged top-flight would bring its own problems. The leading Premier League clubs would rather, in an ideal world, shrink the division to 18 clubs.