English Premiership

Championship leaders Leeds still hoping for Premier League promotion

Marcelo Bielsa (File)
Marcelo Bielsa (File)

Leeds chief executive Angus Kinnear is hopeful his side can achieve Premier League promotion one way or another as uncertainty continues to grip the sporting world.

United sit top of the Championship, seven points clear of third with nine games remaining, but have not kicked a ball for seven weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The next steps remain unclear, with several issues standing in the way of a resumption of the calendar.

Holland and France have already abandoned their seasons and there have been some calls for England to do the same, which would call a number of issues - including Leeds' promotion hopes - into question.

But, while stressing public health comes first, Kinnear is working with a positive outcome in mind.

Writing in the Yorkshire Evening Post, he said: "The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are now leading regular meetings with the larger governing bodies [of which the Premier League and EFL are central] on the operational specifics of how this can be delivered whilst minimising the risk to health.

"This encouraging development comes with the broader positive context of the Government finally softening their stance that the UK populous would be too easily confused, by visibility of the principles of an eventual lockdown exit strategy, to not remember to stay at home in the interim.

"Nobody within the game is suggesting that the importance of football comes within even the same ball park as public health and the work of the NHS, but football is one of many economies that thousands of livelihoods rely upon and we now have come to a time that the dire implications of a paralysed economy need to be balanced with how health risks can be mitigated responsibly.

"If, within the next six weeks, heavy industry, education, constructions and public transport can all enjoy a controlled and phased return to a new normality, then it cannot be beyond the wit of man to engineer a similar return for competitive football where regular testing, rigorous medical supervision and environmental control are all significantly easier to implement."

A return to playing football would give Leeds - plus second-placed West Brom - the chance to cement their current advantages.

However, the mooted points-per-game formula which could complete an unfinished season also gives Kinnear cause for optimism.

"Importantly though, if the public health environment deteriorates and makes a return to play impossible, we should be reassured by the UEFA guidance that leagues should then be settled based on 'sporting merit'," he said.

"In this scenario, despite considerable creative thought, I have yet to be able to contrive a rational methodology that places Leeds United anywhere but inside the top two."

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