03:00PM, Sunday 19 April 2020
National League clubs have been given until May 7 to get their votes in on whether the season should be ended, and Jon Underwood has said the Rebels will vote for the campaign to be concluded.
He admitted this week it’s difficult for clubs to make an informed decision, without knowing the full picture, but he said finishing off the last seven games and having a shot at the play-offs gives them the best possible chance of promotion.
He acknowledges football isn’t the most important thing at the moment, and said the club will abide with whatever decision is taken, but is hopeful the season – or at least the play-offs – can still be completed.
Last week the league contacted the clubs asking them to vote on ending the season immediately, and advising them to do so. If that’s approved there will be a second vote on how the season will be determined, whether that be voiding the whole season, resolving promotion/relegation matters on a points per game basis, or perhaps another scenario. However, those options haven’t been provided to clubs yet and many have criticised this lack of transparency.
“I think the way that they’ve done it is a bit strange,” admitted Underwood.
“It’s good that they’re consulting with clubs, we can’t argue with that. But we’re being asked to vote without having the full information. What’s going to happen next?
“We’d certainly vote to finish the season, which you’d probably expect given our league position. If you’re 14th in the table and not going up or down you’ve probably got no interest in playing the remaining games and just want to start afresh. But with ourselves we’ve been working since the beginning of July towards the goal of trying to get promoted. We’re sitting fifth in a play-off spot and, for us, it would be very disappointing if we didn’t get a chance to compete in those.
“If the season is ended but we still get a shot at the play-offs, great. But we don’t know the full picture at the moment. We can only vote to finish the season as that gives us the best chance of doing that. But every club will have a different rational depending on where they are in the league.
“If you had sat people down at the start of the campaign and said ‘what happens if a global pandemic comes along?’ you’d probably get a fairer outcome. But no one was expecting this to happen.”
Whatever happens with the vote in the coming weeks, Underwood doesn’t think clubs will get back to playing competitively for many months yet. He also thinks the National League is biding its time and hoping to get more of a steer from the Premier League and EFL as to what it should do.
“It’s been a drawn out affair,” he said. “It’s clear they’re waiting to see what happens in the leagues above, the Premier League and EFL. But it’s also very difficult for them. Any frustration we have is not a reflection on them. It’s a very difficult situation and I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes making these decisions because you’ll never please everyone.
“The biggest uncertainty is when this will all end. If you knew now we’d be playing football again in September or December then you might be able to make a plan around how the rest of the season might look, or how next season will look. But it’s very difficult and nobody knows. I don’t envy them making that decision.
“Clearly football isn’t the most important thing right now, but it’s important to those involved in it.
“But we’re not going to kick up a fuss if the decision doesn’t go our way.
“If Wealdstone aren’t promoted that would be harsh on them because they’ve been the best team since day one and deserve promotion. If the chance of promotion is taken away from us that would be tough to take, but we’re still a lot of work away from getting promotion. It would be disappointing but we’d just have to get on with it and go again next year.”
On how long players might need to get back up to full fitness, Underwood added: “Nothing is going to happen for the next month. So it looks like we’re going to be off longer than a normal summer break. And there is the added disadvantage that the players are limited to training on their own, in their garden, if they have one, or going out for runs.
“From a player safety point of view you’re going to need a proper pre-season before we kick another ball and you’re going to need friendlies. I think you need a minimum of a month before they could play competitively.
“They’d need longer than two weeks. That’s not enough. That would only be six sessions for us and it’s not enough time in my view. It could lead to player injuries.”
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