Oakwell has been fully shut down for a week with non-footballing staff joining the players and coaches in staying away from the club during the coronavirus outbreak.
The players are following personal fitness regimes and maintaining contact with head coach Gerhard Struber and his staff. The stadium has been deep-cleaned as a precaution while it has been shut from Monday to all staff. Football is currently suspended until April 30, with the FA saying it will be delayed ‘indefinitely’, but Barnsley are hoping to get a clear plan for completing the season from the EFL and FA in the near future.
While the Reds’ board and staff are conscious of the bigger picture of the spread of the virus, they and other clubs have been pushing for confirmation of whether the season will extend past June 30 when players’ contracts expire. That may enable them to plan financially for the coming months with other issues arising such as season tickets for the 2020/21 campaign which were due to go on sale in the next few weeks and how to finance the club with no matchday income.
Football finance experts have estimated that, based on Barnsley’s wagebill, the roughly £1.3million they were offered last week by the EFL in advanced payments and emergency loans would last them 48 days until early May. Barnsley are bottom of the Championship – seven points from safety – with nine fixtures remaining, so their plans could alter depending on whether or not they are relegated to League One.
Chief executive Dane Murphy said last week that he wanted a cut-off point to be established, after which games could not be played, while he insisted that the club was financially stable. It is Barnsley’s preference to complete the season.
The possibility of playing games behind closed doors with supporters watching on television at home is the preferred option of a growing number of players, according to the Professional Footballers’ Association. It is thought that would give many people a morale boost during a time of crisis and aid some clubs financially. Opponents argue that the testing of players and staff, to make sure they do not have the virus, and the use of an ambulance outside each ground – as stipulated by FA rules – would be an unnecessary drain on NHS resources. There is also the potential risk of crowds of fans congregating outside stadiums while the games are ongoing, meaning the police have to disperse them.
Barnsley have now not played a match in three weeks since their 2-0 home loss to Cardiff City on March 7. Their games against Queens Park Rangers, Millwall and Blackburn Rovers were all called off when the EFL suspended matches until April 3. That was then extended until April 30, meaning the cancellation of their meetings with follow bottom eight sides Stoke City, Luton Town and Wigan Athletic as well as a Yorkshire derby at leaders Leeds United and a home match with Nottingham Forest. The only game not officially cancelled is the trip to Brentford on May 2, which was initially due to be their last fixture of the season and the last game at the Bees’ Griffin Park.