COMMENT: Why the FA were were wrong to null and void the grassroots season

It seems more than a little strange - and unfair - that the Football Association are treating some non-league clubs differently than others.

Friday, 27th March 2020, 10:20 am
Updated Friday, 27th March 2020, 11:11 am
Dec Seiden, right, in action for a US Portsmouth side who were seven points clear at the top of the Wessex League Division 1 table when the season was halted - and now all their results have been expunged. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

The decision to null and void all grassroots football from step 3 - the Southern League Premier level - downwards as a result of the 2019/20 season being halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic is a hammer blow to the clubs closing in on promotion.

It must be an even more painful body blow to Combined Counties League club Jersey Bulls, who had won only 27 of their Division 1 fixtures - scoring 99 goals and conceding just seven. They had already won the title, but now they have been told that, basically, their season didn’t happen. It has been expunged from the record books.

Meanwhile, Northern Counties East League Division 1 club East Hull - who had managed a paltry one point from 26 league games - are spared certain relegation.

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As are New College Swindon in Division 1 West of the Hellenic League. They had picked up one point from 20 matches - scoring nine goals and conceding 131 - yet will now not suffer the demotion such a dismal record deserved.

How is that fair? Surely a points-per-game average would have been a better way to reward the winners and condemn the losers?

At the same time, the National League season is still up in the air. Clubs such as Hawks could yet continue to play games.

How can it be that the FA can have one set of rules for some non-league clubs, and a different one for lots of others?

The National League season could yet be declared null and void, as we don’t seem that close to a resumption of sporting action any time soon with the country on virtual lockdown.

But that is not the point. The point is that the National League clubs, as it stands, could still complete their games, while lower down the likes of US Portsmouth, Infinity and Moneyfields Reserves have had their chances of likely promotion snatched away from them in a cruel manner.

Why should the National League clubs be given that time, when others lower down the pyramid have been denied it? Why should Hawks and Eastleigh get the chance to finish their season, while US Portsmouth don’t?

The FA are still talking about trying to ensure the FA Vase final takes place. Yes, a Wembley final is a lovely day out, of course it is.

But many people have worked tirelessly over the past nine months to try and win promotion to a higher division - sometimes a far more financially lucrative division.

You can’t place a cup final over an entire season’s league games.

And anyway, how can a cup competition (the FA Vase) for steps 5 and 6 clubs be completed when the leagues in which those clubs compete is null and voided and brought to an end, their records expunged?

The clubs are either still active this season or they're not.

It can't be both. The FA, surely, can’t have it both ways?

But they are - Bitton, Consett, Corinthian and Hebburn Town could yet play their two-legged FA Vase semi-finals, while the rest of their league games have been scrapped and the ones they have played have been declared null and void.

And to furiously rub salt into already gaping wounds of those clubs who have been denied promotion, look at what has happened in one of the local hockey leagues.

The South Clubs’ Women’s League (SCWL) have declared that promotion and relegation WILL stand based on the tables at the time they were suspended.

That means Fareham Ladies are the champions, even though they only had a one-point lead over Old Georgians with three matches remaining. But all their hard work over the past eight or nine months will be rewarded.

The Hampshire Hockey League meet online next Monday evening to discuss what to do with their divisions.

If they decide to follow the lead taken by the SCWL, that means Portsmouth’s men’s 4ths - who finished top of Division 8 - will be officially crowned champions and move up to the next division.

So one sporting team in Portsmouth - the hockey men’s 4ths - could finish in a promotion place and be promoted, while others - such as US Portsmouth FC’s first team and reserves - won’t.

Local football clubs would be fully justified in asking why promotions are being honoured in one sport and not their own.

That situation hardly seems fair, and for one good reason - it’s not.