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Gillingham chairman Paul Scally suggests the PFA pay for Coronavirus testing so football has a better chance of resuming and Peterborough United's Darragh MacAnthony backs the idea

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally suggests the Professional Footballers’ Association pay for Covid-19 testing - and one of his League 1 counterparts agrees.

The EFL have told clubs it will cost them around £140,000 to maintain a rigorous testing procedure for their players and staff if they want to resume the season. It’s an expense several clubs have used as an added reason for wanting to end the 2019/20 campaign now.

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham chairman Paul Scally Picture: Ady Kerry

Scally was critical of the PFA this week. They are the trade union for professional footballers in England and Wales. He said he was “bitterly disappointed” in the way they have handled the situation since coronavirus brought a halt to the English game.

He suggested they could pay for testing and in doing so could help swing the vote in League 1. Clubs in the third tier face a decision whether to end the season now - with promotion and relegation possibly decided on points per game - or attempt a return to action.

Mr Scally, speaking on talkSPORT, said: “We are all waiting for that one thing to happen that will change our thought process.

“Maybe the PFA will come out and say they will pay for the testing. I might see a pig flying past the window of my house but if they did do it that would be a massive help and they could see their members playing football and training again.

“If the PFA say, ‘let’s try and get this all back on, here is £5m, we will pay for the testing, I think that the decision and the vote could go much more in favour of ‘let’s get back quickly’.”

The loudest voice among League 1 chairman and owners during the debate about whether to resume the season has been Peterborough United’s Darragh MacAnthony.

He believes that clubs in their division could complete the season for between £200k and £300k and is a fan of Mr Scally’s idea.

Peterborough United co-owner Darragh MacAnthony
Peterborough United co-owner Darragh MacAnthony

MacAnthony said: “Paul Scally came up with a good suggestion that the PFA could pay for the tests.

“They are sitting on £50 million and it’s their members who will be seeking other professions at the end of this if football does not return soon.”

Shrewsbury chief exec Brian Caldwell sits on the other side of the debate. He claims it would be “financial suicide” to carry on playing the season.

He said: “Some of the clubs at the top end of the league are happy to gamble half-a-million pounds in order to facilitate the remaining games.

“It is a massive gamble and I have spoken to clubs even just outside the play-offs and they are not happy to take it and risk throwing that money away.

“It is nuts just now, to be honest. It is a very difficult situation when you have absolutely no income coming in.”

MacAnthony doesn’t agree it will cost that much to play on and, judging things by his own lower forecast, said: “ If clubs can’t afford that sort of money I’m not sure what they’re doing in competitive football.

“They’ve probably saved a lot of money by not playing these last couple of months especially if they’ve furloughed their staff. They’d also benefit from the surge of interest in passionate fans who will buy their merchandise and pay to watch the games on iFollow.”

AFC Wimbledon, who are at the wrong end of the division, say they want the season to end now.

A statement said: “In an ideal world, we would love to play out the season in front of all our fans. Sadly, that’s not the new reality; somehow we have to make sense of the situation we are all in.

“Of course, our priority has to be to protect the health of everyone involved with the club – players, fans and staff alike. Beyond that, we must do all we can to preserve the future of the League and to ensure all its member clubs survive. The majority of us are facing financial problems, some quite severely. Every day this issue remains unresolved is simply adding to that burden.

“Given this fact of life, we will not vote for any outcome that potentially endangers the health of our players and staff or puts clubs under further financial strain.”

AFC Wimbledon would avoid relegation if the season was ended now places decided on points per game average.

Tranmere Rovers would be the team narrowly going down under points per game. They are three points behind the Dons with a game in hand but have an inferior goal difference.

Their chairman Mark Palios, speaking early in the week, said the season should be voided if games aren’t completed. He doesn’t agree places should be settled on a points per game average.

Gillingham’s own manager Steve Evans feels the same. He has made it clear he wants to see any promotion or relegation decisions decided on the pitch.

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