The next step in the footballing puzzle is now almost in place after the National League decision on Wednesday afternoon to cancel the remaining games across all three of its divisions for the 2019/20 season. Once again it’s another difficult decision to be made against the delicate situation of what is happening up and down the country.
The season is now cancelled with no further games to be played, what happens next is the decision of how the season’s tables finish. What offers will be on the table is anyone’s guess at the moment and that is the next action the clubs will have to vote on.
I’ve had a read through the Barnet messageboard before writing, and I’ve spoken to three National League managers for their views as well as my own. So, where do we start?
A mixed selection from Bees fans, a mixed selection from supporters of other clubs across Twitter as well. The timing of the season end with almost all clubs completing 80% of their fixtures has caused many to say the final 20% should be completed at some stage, whenever that may happen. We are all aware that at best we’re in the middle of this pandemic, football may well take a long time to come back and an even longer time with crowds who knows is really the honest answer that one. I believe some of us would take games behind closed doors at the moment just to watch a game of football, but how long would it be before we grow cold of that situation?
Some will argue we hold on until that part can be resumed but for how long can clubs hold out against no cash flow coming in? We know clubs higher up the food chain live underneath the breadline and clubs lower down with less income are similar, bills still need paying and despite clubs being able to furlough staff, players not being included then leaves that expense line running at normal but nothing to pay it with.
Clubs will argue in cases of promotion and relegation if the table stays as it is today. The same will be said if points per game (PPG) is used to create a final table, that will benefit some more than others, clubs that will have backed themselves to get out of the bottom four or gatecrash the play-offs, or even steal the title.
From here though there is one issue affecting the EFL that affects the NL and then all the way down the pyramid. Bury’s place in the Football League is up for discussion having run at 23 clubs in League One, but should they invite Barrow for example as leaders of the National League when play was suspended, then would the likes of Harrogate and Notts County feel a sense of injustice and seek legal advice? And if they promote one team up to League Two does this create a domino effect down the pyramid of one team needing to go up and if so how is that going to be calculated? Will a division run one team short similar to League One? Lots of questions still to be answered but there is plenty of time before decisions beyond these current ones need to be made.
After the decision I spoke with Eastleigh boss Ben Strevens, Bromley gaffer Neil Smith and Bees boss Darren Currie to gain their views on the statement. Strevens was in favour of the decision saying ‘It’s nice to have some clarification, just really tough and now it’s finding a fair way to end the season.’
Smith was in agreement too, ‘I think it’s the right decision as we are no nearer the end of the lockdown and I think the bigger picture is the safety of everyone. The decision will now be how the league ends it so it will now go back to the clubs to vote.’
Currie called on more to be done to ensure all clubs survive, ‘It is the responsibility of the ‘football family’, The FA or PFA or whoever it is that we come together and be sure that we come out of this terrible situation that we don’t lose a single club from the pyramid from top to bottom. Today’s decision is understandable, football will be with us again soon, but in the meantime, health safety and wellness is the priority.’
Attention will surely now start to focus on player contracts and those whose expire in the next eight weeks, many will nervously be wondering what direction clubs will take given a start date for 2020/21 is unlikely to be known anytime soon
No doubt in a few days time we will see the options open to clubs to vote upon, whatever they are it’s not going to please everyone and you can be sure there will be much more debate and opinion flying around…….