02 Apr 2020 in General News
SKINNER: “DECISION DID NOT COME AS A SURPRISE”
By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner admitted that he was not ‘surprised’ by the Football Association’s decision to declare steps three to six in the 2019-20 league season – which includes the Ebac Northern League – as being over due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The statement issued by the authorities last Thursday included: “We have been working collaboratively with the National League System (NLS), the women’s football pyramid and the wider grassroots game since the outbreak of COVID-19 on how to conclude the 2019-20 season in the most appropriate way possible.These are challenging circumstances for English football and all decisions taken are in the best interests of the game and in consultation across key stakeholders. Our primary concern will always be for the safety and welfare of clubs, players, staff, officials, volunteers and supporters during this unprecedented time. Today’s steps take into account the financial impact during this uncertain period, whilst considering the fairest method on how the sporting outcomes for the season will be decided with the integrity of the leagues in mind. The NLS and the women’s football pyramid were able to build a consensus amongst their leagues and, where possible, aimed to create a consistent approach across all leagues, whilst taking into account the unique characteristics of each individual league. As a result, The FA and NLS steps three to six have reached a consensus that their 2019-20 season will now be brought to an end, and all results will be expunged. This will mean no promotion or relegation of clubs between NLS steps three to six, and no promotion to NLS step two. These decisions will also apply to the leagues and clubs who play at NLS step seven. Furthermore, we can now confirm that we have decided that all grassroots football is concluded for the 2019-20 season. This will allow the game to move forward and to commence planning for next season. Our County Football Associations (CFAs) will be supporting grassroots leagues over the coming days to determine how they should close out their current competitions.”
Skinner said: “First and foremost we have to keep in perspective what is going on in the world right now. The primary concern is for everyone to stay safe - and consequently in the current climate football takes a backseat. The decision by the FA did not come as a complete surprise because - to use the buzz word - we are living in unprecedented times. Personally I think the outcome - to declare the season null and void with all results expunged - is the fairest way. I’ve heard people ask why things weren’t calculated on a ‘points per game’ situation - but that can only apply if all teams in the league have played the same number games and against the same opposition.”
The decision also included ruling out promotion and relegation. In Ashington’s league - the first division of the Ebac Northern - Stockton Town appeared to be nailed on for promotion with Hebburn Town, Shildon and North Shields the other leading candidates to finish in the top three whilst South Shields were marching towards another fancied climb up the ladder and local side Morpeth Town were hotly tipped to make another jump up.
Skinner added: “Don’t get me wrong - I feel for teams in a promotion place and understand why they are upset and aggrieved by the decision but unfortunately I cannot think of a fairer way. Those missing out can talk about effort and finances but to be honest, every club including ourselves is in the same position.”
He went on: “I do however believe there could have been more guidance for clubs from steps three to six, like multiple players being on contracts, because the way things stand at the moment contracted players have got to be paid - yet clubs are having to do that without generating any income.”
The Woodhorn Lane boss looked at the wider picture of the whole game from the Premier league down to grassroots level: “People have been making comparisons but they need to realise that non league football and the professional game are two vastly different things. Goal line technology and the introduction of VAR are examples of where it is different.”
Meanwhile ENL chairman Glenn Youngman’s message on the website said : “This will be a huge disappointment to clubs, players and fans across our league. Our preferred option was that we should try and finish the current season, but if that was not possible then determine final positions on a points per game basis. However, it must have been a very difficult decision for the FA to make and whatever the outcome was, they were never going to keep everyone happy. Clubs and players in particular will feel frustrated that months of hard work and commitment will count for nothing. I’d like to thank everyone for all the work they have put in. We announced yesterday that we will be waiving membership fees for our clubs for next season and have cancelled the annual dinner. Both these measures will help our clubs meet the bills they are facing in the coming weeks and months. We hope everyone connected with the Ebac Northern League stays safe and well.”