Dave Seddon’s pressview: Harsh decision to cancel non-league season with no promotion or relegation

During this Covid-19 pandemic there are no right and wrong answers over how sport deals with the fallout.

Saturday, 28th March 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 28th March 2020, 10:29 am
Bamber Bridge in action against NPL Premier Division leaders South Shields earlier this month at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium

The only collective decision able to have been made thus far is the suspension, postponement or cancellation of events.

No sport has been immune to this – the Olympics are off until next year, so is Euro 2020.

Domestic football is on hold and has been for two weeks now – it doesn’t half seem longer.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The determination is still there for English football to resume their season at some point this summer.

Don’t expect it to be any time before June but it is important the campaign is finished even if it goes long into the summer.

Lower down football’s pyramid, it was decided on Thursday this week to cancel the season.

For any club in a division below National League and National League North/South, that’s all folks.

Results will be expunged, there will be no promotion and relegation.

As I started the column, there is no right or wrong answer as coronavirus grips the globe.

However, we can all still have an opinion and for a campaign to halt abruptly like this is something I’m uneasy with.

Some will agree with the course of action taken by the FA but others won’t.

For anyone involved at clubs affected by this decision, there has to be a huge amount of sympathy.

Players, managers, coaches, staff, volunteers (are which there are many) have seen three-quarters of a season’s worth of work disappear.

Some managers will have been sacked during the season because of a fear of relegation or not being promoted – relegation and promotion which now won’t happen.

There are teams throughout the pyramid who have got themselves into commanding positions at the top of their divisions.

Jersey Bulls are 20 points clear at the top of the Combined Counties Football League Division One having won all 27 games.

This time there will be no promotion for them and that will hurt.

That’s just one extreme example – they might not register on many football fans’ radar but for those involved in the club is must be devastating.

I have seen the decision accepted in good grace by many clubs which is a credit to them.

Behind closed doors though, there will be a good deal of frustration.

Some clubs might have struggled to finish the season anyway because of how we are living at the moment.

It is going to be difficult enough for some EFL clubs to get through to the summer, let alone in non-league.

Bar takings are a big part of the economy for clubs in non-league, together with money taken on the gate.

None of that revenue is coming in and the doors are shut at the moment and will be for weeks to come.

Having taken the decision to halt the season, rather than declare it null and void could the current league placings not have been used to at least have promotion and relegation?

It wouldn’t be ideal but better surely than writing everything off and expunging results.

Are results, goalscorers, red cards, yellow cards, statistics, going to be removed from the records?

Will a lad who scored 37 goals for his club this season be able to show his children that in years to come or will there be a gap where 2019/20 was?

Further down the football pyramid, that’s season over for grassroots too.

That I can understand when it is purely for fun and enjoyment.

While you want to see kids running about on a Sunday in the fresh air, stopping now is not going to ruin a business model and have far-reaching affects.

This season was my son’s first with his new junior team and it was hard to tell him that it might be a while before he’s playing again.

The weather over the winter meant few games were played but there was still weekly training and the anticipation of a game – until the Whatsapp message informing of anther waterlogged pitch, landed.

Whenever the return to playing is, whether it be late summer or autumn, I look forward to the Sunday mornings and afternoons standing on the touchline of a park pitch somewhere watching kids go hell for leather purely for the sake of enjoying the game and maybe it being their turn to win the man-of-the-match award.

With a few more games practice, even my linesman skills might improve – I emphasis the word MIGHT!

Moving up the pyramid and to the EFL and Premier League, the waiting game continues over when the season might resume.

I don’t detect any sense of impatience yet over a lack of a return date.

As a society, our priority is health and making sure the NHS get everyone’s support as they look to cope with the pandemic.

There will be a time when we start to get back to some sort of normality and sport will be a big part, whether watching it or participating.

Football will need to be flexible when it comes back, whether that concerns the timing of next season and when the transfer window is.

I read that some teams who are changing sponsors and kit manufacturers are worried that this season could bridge the change date.

That is when flexibility and common sense is needed, agreements struck for deals to take affect just a bit later than intended.

No company, no club, no country will have been exempt from coronavirus by the time we are through.

So there needs a degree of mutual understanding to get things going again.

I’m yearning to write about day-to-day football again but for now that is not possible.

Please bear with us and enjoy the sport features and nostalgia pieces which we are creating to keep you entertained.