07:00PM, Saturday 30 January 2021
Marlow chairman Terry Staines admits declaring the campaign null and void or coming up with a creative way to determine placings on points-per-game (PPG) are the only viable ways of concluding the season, with the country not likely to come out of lockdown until early March.
While his manager Mark Bartley is keen for the season to be played out in some form, and for promotion and relegation to be maintained, Staines is more accepting of the fact the season may well have already run its course.
Due to lockdown restrictions, and with matches unlikely to resume unless supporters are allowed back into grounds, Staines can’t see how league matches would be possible before mid-March at the earliest and, with most teams having not yet reached double figures in terms of matches played, he can’t see how the remaining games could be squeezed into such a short period.
He called the pandemic an ‘unreal situation’ which has effectively shut down operations at Oak Tree Road.
That said the finances of the club are in a reasonable shape and he’s hopeful Marlow can come through this difficult period relatively unscathed.
“We’ve been asked for our views by the league, and I’ve circulated this to the board and I’m still waiting for some replies,” said Staines.
“It does seem that there is reason for some optimism in the months ahead, but I don’t think we’re there now where we can feel very optimistic that something will change in the short term. Maybe March or April, things could change for the better, but that doesn’t give any time to complete the season and we’re not even into double figures for league games.
“I don’t think there’s any chance that a full season can take place. There must be some creative thinking to find a solution, should football be allowed to continue. I don’t think the season can be completed in a way every club would have hoped for at the start of it.
“When football can restart the league has said they’ll give clubs 14 days’ notice, for players to start training again. With a period of notice for the players to do another mid pre-season we’re not going to be playing again until the middle of March at the very earliest. Normally we finish games, other than play-offs by April. So how are we going to squeeze all these matches into six weeks?
“Is it better to say the season is null and void as we understand it and either find a way of calculating promotion and relegation issues or just null and voiding the season. They’re the only two ways out of the situation now.”
While there are signs of optimism for the
future, Staines doesn’t want to return to football too soon and risk the club’s volunteer workforce being exposed to or catching COVID-19.
“I wouldn’t want to go anywhere where there’s a risk that I could catch the dreaded bug,” he said. “Most people, and certainly the older generation are concerned about exposing themselves to anywhere this could happen.
“If the season was to recommence immediately, I’m not sure how many of our necessary and valued volunteers would want to be associated with football at the moment.”
Marlow’s financial situation should be aided by the Government’s announcement yesterday (Wed) that £10m would be made available in grants for the 850 clubs playing in steps 3-6 of the National League system.