I read with staggering levels of disgust that the non-league football season has been voided with results expunged, from the National League North/South and down.
For sure, we are in an unprecedented situation and there are far greater concerns right now, however at some point in the future, hopefully during 2020, society will return to normal and football will return. We need to ensure that decisions that are made in haste during the coming weeks are the right decisions.
Voiding the football season will be the wrong decision. And yeah, I know cancelled has two l’s but I couldn’t be arsed to make my own image.
It will destroy the integrity of football. In all coming seasons, who will know whether the football games that they are playing are actually going to mean anything? There will forever be this possibility that all the effort and hard-fought victories will be for nothing.
It will be exceptionally unfair. Yes to Liverpool and Leeds United, for whom I struggle to have too much sympathy for. But also for clubs that have spent good money fighting relegation, and those having exceptional seasons such as Sheffield United with a chance of qualifying for Europe.
Imagine if this had happened in 2008, when we were chasing Hull City AFC’s first ever promotion to the Premier League? All that magic – and the investment that went with it, would have been totally wasted.
Or in 2014, when we made it to the FA Cup Final for the only time in our history? Again, that would have been taken away from us.
Not to mention the financial implications for clubs that have invested to try to get promoted – where will the incentive be for owners to invest in the future of the club? And we know, as Hull City AFC fans, about the lack of investment in our playing squad right now.
Granted – cancelling the season ensures that we don’t get relegated – but I don’t want us to achieve that by proxy of voiding.
And can you imagine the amount of legal cases? Even clubs like South Shields are threatening legal action. The next season could potentially be impossible to start due to the volume of legal cases.
What To Do?
Before anything thinks otherwise, I am not arguing for an immediate return to football. Nor am I arguing for the season to be completed behind closed doors – though it is preferable to just cancelling the season.
Whilst I am no virology expert unlike most of the people on my social media feeds seem to be, I am under the assumption that football will not return in May. And probably not June. Even if the virus calms down enough during the summer months to allow a return to normality, I am under the impression that a resurgence could happen in autumn/winter, so there is a realistic prospect of football having to be cancelled once again.
The priority must be to finish this season but it really does not matter when. June/July would be amazing, and allow time to prepare for the 2020/21 season.
However, finishing the season in September, October – hell even December if we have to, is absolutely fine. It is crucial for the integrity of the game going forwards that this season is finished.
What about next season?
What about next season? Good question. Options are completely open for next season – whilst this season must be finished, next season could be more open-ended.
Say that we cannot finish the 2019/20 season until November. Ideas could include playing each other once. Maybe we finish the 2019/20 in September – that could leave enough time to play each other once, then split the leagues into top and bottom halves, and play each team in your half once – a season of 34 games instead of 46 games in the Championship.
Cup competitions could be cancelled – or even used as a half-season warm-up during November/December. The Champions League could go back to just being a knock-out competition for the 2020/21 season.
It is almost an opportunity – to mix it up a bit, try something different.
And whatever happens with regards to scheduling for next season, we will need to have an agreement in place throughout the leagues for what happens if this, or a similar situation occurs again during future seasons.
Cancelled a league with just 9 games played is a very different beast to cancelling a league with just 9 games to go. There should be an agreement as to what happens in the future – so we have something to fall back on should this occur in a future season.
If we all knew that, for example, league positions on 1st of each month would be the final league position should the league need to be voided, then there would not be this issue. It could be voided without losing the integrity of football.
Of course, finishing the season, whatever it takes and whenever it can be done will cause problems in itself.
Top of the mind comes player’s contracts, some of which will expire at the end of June. Can these be extended to take account of a season extension? I note that Juventus players have agreed to a pay freeze. Could this happen across the board, with wages perhaps deferred for those out of contact at the end of June, to ensure they can play a part in finishing the season in September, or whenever it may be?
Loan periods will also have to be subject of some agreement, with many of them ending as soon as the season was originally due to finish.
The timing of the transfer window may have to be changed – though there will likely be deals already “agreed” under the desk.
There are problems with whatever solution is chosen, however this current season must be concluded.
What would be the point in any future football season if it could just be voided?