The wait for clarification on if and when Leeds United will be promoted back to the Premier League continues to tread a complicated, increasingly ugly path.
With no concrete indication on how the Premier League plans to resume play amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, a major development has seen several relegation-threatened clubs suggest that they will only back a proposal for fixtures to be staged at neutral grounds if they are assured of their top flight status for next term first.
In response to that demand, the Daily Mail report that the bottom three have been told they could be sent down automatically if they do not acquiesce to the Premier League plans for the so-called ‘Project Restart’.
And Gary Neville has, perhaps inadvertently, highlighted just how complex the issue is, simultaneously claiming that the Premier League are blackmailing clubs into playing and that relegation and promotion must be carried out as normal.
“But it really is getting quite dirty behind the scenes it sounds like, based on what has been said this morning [Thursday]. We will relegate you if you don’t want to play – what about health?
“I don’t believe it is a fair approach to avoid relegation. If we are playing football matches then there has to be something on it or there is no point turning up.
“Promotion and relegation is what drives our game and makes it as competitive as it is. I am not for removing it.”
But this is the crux of the issue facing the Premier League.
Neville claims that they are blackmailing clubs into playing matches, but in reality, their stance is just a retaliation to those clubs trying to wriggle their way out of the drop.
If he believes that relegation and promotion should still go ahead – and we all know that they should – then the only way to ensure that teams take to the pitch is to give them no alternative but to play for their survival.
Obviously, the health and safety of players has to be first priority for the Premier League, but provided that can be assured, a little heavy-handedness may be the only way to guarantee that this season is concluded in the fairest possible manner – and that would mean relegation from the top flight and promotion from the second tier.
In other Leeds United news, Exclusive: Robinson identifies key factor that will give Whites ‘head start’ in transfer market.