The Premier League could be in for a legal battle if it decides to scrap relegation for this season, according to English Football League chief Rick Parry.
With the coronavirus halting professional football in England since mid-March, there are question marks over how seasons will be completed and how champions, European places, promotion and relegation will be determined.
Several teams have shown a willingness to finish the season in neutral locations, but only if the possibility of relegation is removed.
Norwich, Aston Villa and Bournemouth are currently in the Premier League’s relegation zone, while Watford, West Ham and Brighton are all fighting to avoid the drop.
Championship clubs Leeds and West Brom were favored to get automatic promotion to the English top flight, but their possible participation in the top division is in doubt.
Parry warned the Premier League it would be forced into the courts if it decided to scrap promotion and relegation because of the amount of money at stake for the clubs.
“The Premier League is aware of our position on that. Lawyers are going to get wealthy [if the Premier League opted not to relegate three teams],” Parry said in front of the government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.
“There would be a degree of outrage from a number of clubs in the Championship and it would be a breach of the tripartite agreement.”
The return of the Premier League is currently being discussed by stakeholders, with the likelihood that any season resumption will see matches played behind closed doors.
Parry explained that it was important for campaigns to be completed before some players’ contracts expired at the end of July, but also acknowledged the financial impact of having no fans at matches.
“Our end date realistically is July 31 because of the situation with contracts. We can’t go beyond July,” he said.
“Players and staff have been furloughed and to expect clubs to bring them back in now, to forgo the furlough, only to then find in a month they can’t play would be a complete mess. We need to be taking decisions within days.
“We have a great deal of uncertainty around next season and the undetermined matter of when we’ll be able to return with crowds, which for the EFL is absolutely critical.
“We’re much more dependent upon the revenue and atmosphere generated by crowds than the Premier League.
“If we were starting behind closed doors it would be finely balanced economically. It’s almost neutral, but for many clubs it would actually cost them to play.”