Opinion: why Rotherham United should be promoted in this unprecedented season

PAUL Warne lies awake at night fearing that not everyone at Rotherham United will keep their jobs as coronavirus changes the face of football.
Paul WarnePaul Warne
Paul Warne

Nigel Clough is so concerned that the Burton Albion manager this week gave up his role at the Pirelli Stadium to try to save his club money and help them through the crisis.

In the meantime, Darragh MacAnthony ploughs on with his vicious, self-centred bid to twist the football landscape so the view suits himself and the other rich, shallow owners he has persuaded to join his cause.

All money, no conscience.

MacAnthony’s Peterborough United, along with Oxford United, Portsmouth, Fleetwood Town, Sunderland and Ipswich Town, want the League One season that Covid-19 shut down in March to be played to its conclusion later this summer.

He says that if he doesn’t get his way he’ll sue.

Forget that the disease can kill, forget player safety, forget there will be no fans and no income, forget many sides can’t afford the coronavirus testing a return to action requires or the cost of extending some players’ contracts beyond their June 30 expiry, forget that resuming could threaten some clubs’ existence.

The cabal Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart has scathingly dubbed ‘the Magic Six’ were, with the exception of Ipswich, all play-off contenders when the sport came to a halt. Having spent big in their pursuit of the Championship, their owners want something back for their bucks.

But as Millers manager Warne warns: “Clubs could definitely go to the wall if games have to be played behind closed doors. There are teams in our league already who have been struggling financially, teams like Southend and Bolton.”

Coventry City topped the table when play stopped more than two months ago. Rotherham, having completed 35 of their scheduled 44 fixtures, were second.

The sensible call, the moral solution, is for the season to be declared over now, the need to reduce the risk to health and finances outweighing every other consideration.

The Sky Blues and Millers should be awarded promotion because they have earned it. If the final standings were concluded on a points-per-game ratio — either weighted or unweighted — based on the near 80 per cent of the 2019/20 programme already completed, both clubs would still be in the top two.

Better to decide a season on 35 games that were played, not nine that weren’t.

In an ideal world, Rotherham would much prefer to do the deed on the pitch over a full campaign. But this is not an ideal world. Lives and livelihoods are under threat and a resumption of matches would only add to the dangers.

That’s why Warne admits: “Being at the head of the club — although the chairman is above me, obviously — I feel it a bit, to be honest.

“There could be some difficult decisions here, as there will be at a lot of companies. These are people I have brought to the club. It would be difficult for me.”

The third tier’s 23 clubs are expected to hold a vote in the next few days after having all options outlined to them by the division’s governing body that seems to do little to govern, the EFL.

The EFL, who held a board meeting yesterday (Wednesday) have made it clear they are in favour of PPG promotion for the top two and possibly play-offs to decide the third team to go up.

However, the decision rests with the clubs and MacAnthony is busy trying to rouse more support for his own interests.

An unweighted PPG agreement would see his club drop out of the play-off picture into seventh place, so one of his suggestions to conveniently circumvent that outcome includes an eight-team, sudden-death format.

He is being driven only by his own needs while trying to hide them behind a facade of “sporting integrity”.

Integrity is clubs doing the right thing, not being cowed by a few powerful voices.

Ending the season now wouldn’t really be a vote against playing on.

It would be a vote for safety, for decency, for survival.