WHEN League One began the season by postponing games involving Bury while Bolton Wanderers’ kids were being routinely thrashed 5-0, it would have been unimaginable the campaign could end in more of a shambles.

And yet, here we are.

It is 80 days since the season was suspended and 17 days since it became clear how the Championship and League Two wanted to finish.

In between them, League One remains riddled with self-interest.

That should not be surprising.

The uneven playing field caused by Bury’s expulsion left games in hand, creating doubt in the battle for relegation and the unbelievably tight play-off race which is lacking in a more clear-cut League Two table.

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Uncertainty breeds wriggle room for those who need to fight their corner and promote alternative suggestions on how to conclude matters.

Weighted PPG, null and void, margins for error, on and on it goes.

Funnily enough, it tends to end up with them gaining a place in the play-offs, or avoiding relegation.

Tranmere Rovers have been among the most vocal, but if the crisis had hit 12 months earlier it is worth pointing out that Oxford United were in the bottom four with nine matches remaining.

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By staying consistent, the U’s have largely managed to stay out of the selfish arguments, although Josh Ruffels’ late winner at Shrewsbury Town meant they were in the fortunate position of backing one option while knowing they had the insurance of a play-off place.

In this context, it should be up to the EFL to hear the arguments and put forward a solution.

Rick Parry, the organisation’s chairman, said on May 21: “We are at the point now where strong, definitive action is needed for the good of the league and its members.”

That’s more like it, but 11 days have since passed and we are still at least a week away from a decision.

Firstly, the case for the defence.

It has become a cliche, but this crisis is unprecedented, certainly outside of a world war.

Juggling a financial meltdown among diverse members – who range from Leeds United to Macclesfield Town – with a huge, rapidly evolving public health emergency is an administrator’s worst nightmare.

Clearly, the best option in the context was to restart by early May and have everything done and dusted before contracts expired at the end of June.

It would also, crucially, avoid any risk of legal action from clubs unhappy about ending the season artificially.

Plan B was to shunt everything back by a month, which while not ideal would cover the month of severance pay at the end of contracts for those whose deals expire this summer.

But Parry told a parliamentary committee last month the absolute deadline was July 31.

Witney Gazette:

  • Rick Parry gives evidence to a parliamentary committee last month          Picture: PA

The EFL had also said the remaining games would take 56 days to complete.

That means restarting by Friday, clearly an impossibility given even the Premier League are not back for another fortnight.

It effectively means that for all the talking, of the two options on the table, one is a non-starter if the July 31 deadline still exists.

Exactly how the Championship, whose clubs are back in training, can fit their games in by then has not been explained.

But League One is even further behind.

Lincoln City have already made up their mind, last week announcing a retained list to cut 11 players once their contracts expire, a sure sign they don’t see any football being played at Sincil Bank this summer.

The horrible circumstances are not the fault of the EFL, but after an endless string of conference calls the issues should have been clear.

There has been plenty of talk about ‘fairness’, but the minute it looked like playing the remaining games was in jeopardy, the process became about finding the least worst option.

The last few weeks though have been bogged down in bureaucracy.

Rules need to be followed, presumably to minimise the risks of legal action, but the glacial progress does nobody any favours.

Managers, players and supporters, are all left in the dark while we await the next statement from a meeting where it was decided to have another meeting in a week’s time.

While nothing has been done with any speed, when it comes to League One, the EFL will be hoping to forget the 2019/20 campaign in a hurry.