Rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle poised to drag on long af­ter sea­son fi­nally ends

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport | Football - By Sam Dean

In the great elon­gated cam­paign of 2019-20, it is per­haps fit­ting that even the fi­nal day of the sea­son will not bring any real cer­tainty to the teams in­volved in the Cham­pi­onship rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle. The foot­ball will stop tonight but the ar­gu­ments and cal­cu­la­tions will con­tinue.

Even with­out fac­tor­ing in the var­i­ous le­gal dis­putes and pos­si­ble points de­duc­tions, the lower end of the league ta­ble is com­pli­cated enough. No side have yet been math­e­mat­i­cally rel­e­gated, with teams from 19th to 24th all at risk.

Then, once the ta­ble is set­tled, the clubs in the bot­tom three could face a painful wait to hear the con­clu­sions to the dis­ci­plinary cases in­volv­ing Wi­gan, Sh­effield Wed­nes­day and Derby.

The team with the hard­est task on the pitch are Hull, at the foot of the ta­ble, three points be­hind 21stplaced Charl­ton. Hull must win at Cardiff and hope re­sults else­where go in their favour. Barns­ley, in 23rd, also need to win and hope for good for­tune in other games. Their task is not made eas­ier by trav­el­ling to play a Brent­ford side who have au­to­matic pro­mo­tion in their sights.

A win for Lee Bowyer’s Charl­ton at Leeds, his for­mer club, would en­sure they remain out­side the bot­tom three. Charl­ton are level on points with Lu­ton, but have a vastly su­pe­rior goal dif­fer­ence. Two points fur­ther ahead are Mid­dles­brough and Birm­ing­ham, who would be dragged into the fold if they fail to win a point against Wed­nes­day and Derby re­spec­tively and both Charl­ton and Lu­ton win.

Here is when things be­come tricky. Wi­gan will re­ceive their 12-point re­duc­tion, a con­se­quence of go­ing into ad­min­is­tra­tion, im­me­di­ately af­ter their match against Ful­ham. Wi­gan are 13th, 10 points clear of the rel­e­ga­tion zone, so could avoid rel­e­ga­tion, even with the de­duc­tion, if they beat Ful­ham and ei­ther Charl­ton or Lu­ton lose.

Should they fall into the bot­tom three, Wi­gan’s fu­ture will be de­ter­mined by the re­sult of the ap­peal they have lodged against the points penalty. As a re­sult, the team who fin­ish above them would still have to wait for the out­come of the ap­peal be­fore know­ing their fate.

The rel­e­ga­tion land­scape could shift fur­ther if Wed­nes­day are found guilty of break­ing fi­nan­cial rules. The club were charged in Novem­ber over the is­sue re­lat­ing to the £60 mil­lion sale of their sta­dium to owner De­jphon Chan­siri. Wed­nes­day have de­nied any wrong­do­ing and are await­ing the ver­dict of an in­de­pen­dent panel.

Their pun­ish­ment could be as se­vere as a 21-point penalty, and they start the day only eight points clear of the bot­tom three. They too could ap­peal against any sanc­tion, caus­ing the sit­u­a­tion to drag on fur­ther.

Derby, 13 points clear of the rel­e­ga­tion zone, were also charged with breach­ing fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tions af­ter the sale of their sta­dium to Mel Mor­ris, their owner. They have also de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

On top of all this, Barns­ley cochair­man Paul Con­way told The Daily Tele­graph last week that his club were con­sid­er­ing le­gal ac­tion if they were rel­e­gated with the out­stand­ing cases not con­cluded.

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