Mouth of the Tyne: Why non-league football shouldn't void the season again
- Credit: DANNY LOO
The latest national lockdown has left many in the non-league game fearing the worst.
Many non-league clubs haven't played since the beginning of November and there is a real worry that for the second year in a row the authorities will make a snap decision and just wipe out another campaign.
I'm not saying that non-league clubs should be allowed to play through the latest restrictions. I think there is a very good argument that says elite football shouldn't be continuing either, but I do not want to see another null and void, one because it will be another hammer blow and two fingers to all the unseen work done by the volunteers at the clubs, but secondly, because to me there seems to be an obvious solution - and one which will see the season come to a conclusion.
And that is quite simply, play on until July or whenever. Even if we don't start back until March, that is still four or five months to get things done.
Now, people will say it is in the constitutions of the leagues that they finish in April but I'm sure you can get round that. I mean, does it really matter that we finish then? Tottenham played Liverpool in the Champions League final on July 1 in 2019. So if they can, why not everyone else?
Football is steeped in tradition, I for one am a big advocate of a 3pm kick-off on a Saturday, but surely now is a time for the authorities to become flexible.
Others will say a July finish doesn't give you much time to start the next year but again, why do we need to start in August? Finish this year in July and start next season in mid-October or early-November say. Then finish that campaign in June before restarting once more in September. You'll be back to traditional starting and finishing points soon enough.
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And remember, the Premier League are probably looking at how they will fit the Qatar World Cup in so there may be plans to change the dates of the top flight anyway.
There will be the argument of some about those clubs that share grounds with cricket clubs who have priority in the summer months. Fair enough, but then that only affects Saturdays and possibly Sundays, so play on Monday and Friday for example.
And this could even attract more fans. Imagine a day at work on Friday before thinking, "it's a lovely sunny night, let's go down to the club, watch a game and have a few beers". I reckon there will be loads of people who would fancy that.
The sunnier and warmer summer months would probably see bigger gates full-stop, and increased revenue at a time when all clubs are going to be crying out for it.
See, I told you it sounded simple but let's say this is a non-starter, well there are still options available.
The one I would like to see is to get each club to play everyone else in the league at least once, hopefully with a balanced number of home and away games.
From there, split the league in half if there's time. Top half go for promotion, the bottom battle against relegation. If you can play home and away games, great. If not and there are an uneven number of games, give those clubs who finished in the top places before the split the extra home game.
Yes, people will moan, yes, it isn't ideal, but there isn't a solution that will please everyone. Remember that bit on Auf Wiedersehn Pet when they wanted to paint the hut? Who voted for yellow? "Everyone gets what nobody wanted," said Dennis. A solution that brings some sort of sporting conclusion is definitely better than declaring the league null and void again. Let's not paint the hut yellow if there is a chance to prevent it.
There are rumours going around too that the National League want promotion and relegation this year. I've not had that confirmed but you can see their thinking. Another lost season would certainly see the integrity of their competition devalued so there may be discussions going on right now among committees trying to thrash out a solution.
I hope they can. It's a decision that pales into insignificance alongside the horrendous number of deaths that have already been recorded, with the sobering fact that are likely to be thousands more to come too, but we all want to have, at the very least, the hope that normality is within touching distance again.
A functioning, played to the last kick, non-league football season would provide just that to so many.