As some of you might know I am part of the Premier Non-League Podcast along with five other guys. We’ve just recorded our eighth episode and our first of 2021, focussing this time on the romance of the FA Cup from last weekend, the ongoing National League funding saga and of course the dreaded null and void situation which is being discussed again given the current restrictions Steps 3-6 find themselves under.
Underneath the elite National League divisions, football is looking increasingly unlikely to find itself with time to complete the 2020/21 season. Being completely at the mercy of the government restrictions talks are already underway to gauge how clubs feel with regards to cancelling the season or to providing ideas and ways to have at least a partial conclusion.
It’s easy to see that we are going to have a huge split as clubs are canvassed across the next few weeks. There are those who are in the same situation as last year, leading divisions or in with a chance of promotion with so many spots open as part of the re-structure that should have occurred last year and would no doubt want to carry things on and complete.
There will be clubs who weren’t close to things last year but are in contention this year and will be keen to achieve what they set out to do at the start of the season.
Those whose seasons haven’t panned out quite how they wanted will be happy to call a halt and begin again next season and hope for better times, I don’t disagree that some will decide that financially they also won’t think it’s beneficial to carry on or to re-start for a small account of time.
The volunteer base for a lot of clubs includes those who are currently being asked to shield or just receiving their first doses of vaccination which will of course impact on clubs to not only police the ground when the game is on but also the before of getting a game on and the after of clearing up.
The players of course are paramount. Without them on the pitch there is no game, same goes for officials. It’s easy to forget at times they started the season late after a confused pre-season programme, played for around two months and most have not kicked a competitive ball since early November.
Now we are looking at around four to five months off for these guys since they last played once we get around to March, is there time for them to get back up to a level of match fitness to complete some kind of competition? Will any of them say ‘thanks, but no thanks’, preferring to spend the summer months getting back to speed and going again in August?
And finally we have those of us who try to make a living from the game or just beginning to. This season I began to write for clubs from results round ups to articles written specifically for clubs that asked, those clubs being Southern Combination Premier Division sides Langney Wanderers and East Preston whilst Pitching In Southern League outfit Met Police joined just before the previous lockdown in November.
With the stop start effect of the season and also the knowing cash flow is tight for all, it’s been difficult for me to approach new clubs and really push it along to start to make moves in the market. With the success I enjoyed last year writing this blog with almost 22,000 visitors in a year there is a niche I’ve found where the words are right. But like the remainder of the non-league world I’m waiting to see where things go, I’m not expecting any more football to be honest until next August. I guess what it does do is give more time to hone this product some more and be ready to go to more clubs this summer and giving them something they want for their programme, be it online or in print.
There is a scenario that can be put in the mix should there be a resumption and that is for a split of divisions in two to play some sort of football in March through to May depending on if restrictions are lifted in time, it would bring some closure to the season without it being cancelled, but again it would depend on a lot of factors swinging in favour of the beautiful game.
A last but not final thought has to go to those suffering mentally from not attending games. For many and at times me included not being able to get out to watch a live game has been tough, whilst I don’t mind a bit of football on the TV or streaming via the laptop there is a saturation point to it, nothing beats getting together with your mates watching non-league football, its why we do it and while we know and/or hope these days aren’t far away again for some it’s the highlight of their working week.
For now we wait, hopefully no rash decisions will be made as per last March/April and a more logical approach is taken across the board and while whatever is decided cannot please everyone if they decide to curtail things again, there must a set of rules written up to cover playing a certain percentage of games or less than and sufficient agreement with that for a final resolution, we can’t be sitting here having this conversation again in the future……….