Western Morning News
Hiscox calls for urgent decisions from the FA
NON-LEAGUE football is in danger of not finishing for a second season running as Covid-19 restrictions are ramped up again – and Phil Hiscox, secretary of the South West Peninsula League, believes decisions need to be made now to avoid any confusion going forward.
Hiscox doesn’t expect football beneath the National League to start up again until at least February, if at all – and certainly it is unlikely this season will be fully completed by the end of May.
Ahead of an FA Leagues Committee meeting today, Hiscox said: “We are all expecting Boris Johnson to say there will be a toughening of restrictions and that isn’t going to finish in the next couple of weeks.
“So I think we are now in a situation where a full complete league season is impractical – that is to finish by the end of May.
“I don’t think there is any great heart to go beyond the end of May. There are a lot of rules that need to be rewritten but then it also affects how early you start next season.
“So it is basically in the FA’s hands. Do you find an alternative way of fairly counting the season? Whether that is actually crowning someone as league champions is another matter, it might be just to enable promotion and relegation on a sort of pointsper-game basis. And if you are going to do that it has to be a fair system.
“Torpoint and Millbrook, two of the top three teams in the East, haven’t played each other yet. For it to be fair, at some point they have to play each other. Those teams that have played [ bottom team] Stoke
Gabriel twice – they have got an advantage over a team like Brixham who haven’t played Stoke Gabriel at all. Do Brixham deserve their chance to play Stoke Gabriel at least once?”
Once parts of the country entered Tier 4, suspensions of leagues became inevitable – and some leagues are so far behind it would seem impossible for them to be finished by May or June.
The Southern League - Tiverton Town, Truro City, Barnstaple Town and Bideford - hasn’t returned from the last lockdown, while Devon’s Western League teams - Buckland Athletic, Exmouth Town, Plymouth Parkway and Tavistock - are also shut-down.
Parkway boss Lee Hobbs said: “It leaves us four months to complete 27 matches. It just isn’t going to be done.
“I think they should just end it now, work out the points per game, and just end it. It’s not fair on anyone.
“It’s not fair on myself, the club or especially the players. The league are absolutely flogging them to death with no end-product.
“It’s a shambles and you can’t carry on like this, it’s not fair on anyone and the players will get bored. They are already bored of training all the time. They want to play and we can’t.”
Matt Trenaman, manager of Peninsula League Premier Division East side Crediton United, feels it is time to be realistic.
He said: “I think we are nearing
the stage when real consideration needs to be given as to whether it is realistic that we can complete a full season. It doesn’t feel right to press on with football now and I feel the league has made the right decision to suspend games for now.
“However, I don’t see the situation improving enough in the next four weeks to make it feasible to complete a 38-game season.
“We are all desperate to play football but a lot of the enjoyment has been sucked out of it because of the number of restrictions in place.
“As far as I am concerned, I would rather focus on planning for an uninterrupted pre-season ahead of next season when hopefully things can return to normal.”
Elmore manager Steven Orchard said: “In hindsight it would have been better to complete last season over two seasons instead of potentially having two seasons null and void.”
Falmouth Town, who play in the Premier West, at least had some fun in the FA Vase before they were knocked out on Penalties at
Christchurch just before Christmas. Their manager, Andrew Westgarth, said: “It looks unlikely that the whole season will be completed in its entirety, in the sense of the League Cup, the Cornwall Senior Cup, the Charity Cup – and the league.
“It all depends on other leagues. If we are in a position to complete our league, I don’t know what the knockon effect would be in regards to promotions and relegations.”
Hiscox is expecting things to become a bit clearer this week – but having already spoken to other league secretaries, he knows the FA has some difficult decisions to make.
“Having spoken to other leagues as part of a Zoom call on Saturday morning, other leagues in other parts of the country are in far worse situations than us in terms of numbers of games played,” he said. “So will the FA say ‘unless all leagues can reach a certain percentage of games played, there isn’t a lot of point in those who can reach it reaching it’?”
Football in 2021 may well feel a bit like football in 2020 then – until the vaccines are fully rolled out.