05:00PM, Friday 24 April 2020
The National League released a statement on Wednesday confirming the immediate end of the campaign because of the coronavirus pandemic, something it said the majority of clubs in all three divisions were in favour of.
It’s a decision that wouldn't have been welcomed by Slough Town, and joint manager Jon Underwood accepts it's probably one which ends their slim hopes of promotion to the top level of non league football.
The league’s board is now carefully considering how to resolve the promotion and relegation permutations from its three divisions. And, while end of season play-offs are still being considered by the league, Underwood concedes that from a practical point of view, it’s very unlikely.
If, as expected the league positions are calculated on either a points per game average, or the season is voided and results expunged, Slough would miss out on their shot at promotion.
“We voted to play out the rest of the games,” said Underwood.
“Obviously because of the position we’re in and we weren’t sure what we were voting on in terms of promotion, relegation, play-offs. Those outcomes haven’t been confirmed yet which makes it a difficult vote. You don’t know what the consequences would be.
“We wanted to finish the season. That’s not going to happen and my personal view is that, the longer this goes on, I think the possibility of us playing any play-off matches is fading by the week.
“We’re starting to get our heads around the fact that we won’t get that opportunity. I think if there is any promotion it would be done on a points per game basis and that wouldn’t see us getting promoted.”
Underwood said he was also ‘filled with dread’ at the prospect of non league football not returning until January 2021. With social distancing measures likely to disrupt the prospect of football fans returning to grounds for some time, many are speculating that if games are to be played, they will take place behind closed doors.
There appears to be little appetite for that from National League clubs.
“Yeah, I saw that and it filled me with dread as a football lover,” added Underwood. “I’m not quite sure how I’ll cope with another eight months without football if that’s the case.
“I understand the thinking. Clubs at this level operate on fans coming through the turnstiles so playing behind closed doors isn’t really an option for us. But I think it will come down to Government direction on public gatherings. What will be allowed and what isn’t allowed. If the Government say you can’t do that until January then we won’t have any choice.
“But I find it hard with all the uncertainty around at the moment that anyone would make that decision now, or even into next month. There are so many variables. If the National League say they won’t start until January, what happens if we have a good few months and you get to October and things could have been started. I’m not saying that it won’t happen, but I can’t believe they would take that decision now. It wouldn’t be consistent with how the National League are working.
“There are lots of rumours about what the Premier League will do, but it’s a different situation for them. They can play behind closed doors and stream matches, that’s a different income stream they have. I think we’ll have to wait and see, but it does throw up a lot of different challenges. If we can’t play for another eight months it would be like everyone of your players coming back from a long term injury. You would need a real good amount of time to get them back up to speed.
“While they haven’t ruled out the play-offs, I struggle to see it happening. You’ve got a small number of teams, in our case six, and they’d need to train and prepare for those play-offs. You might be training for three or four weeks for one game that you might lose. It just doesn’t feel very practical to me.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’d love to do it. We’d jump at the chance. But I feel less and less confident that will happen. Maybe I’m just preparing myself for the worst.”
'Timely and careful consideration' will now be given by the league to determining ‘the sporting outcomes for the 2019/20 season'. Further updates will be given in due course.
A National League statement added: “In the knowledge that the ordinary resolution has passed, the League’s board has chosen to communicate the decision now and before the last few responses are received, which will not change the outcome, to enable clubs to make business decisions with greater clarity as soon as possible.”
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