Wessex League keen to hold mini-cup event in the spring if FA null and void 2020/21 - and this is how it could look ...

The Wessex League are keen to provide competitive football in March, April and May - even if the FA null and voids the league season for the second year running.

Wednesday, 10th February 2021, 12:06 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th February 2021, 12:42 pm
US Portsmouth and AFC Portchester in FA Vase action last October. The two teams could meet again if the Wessex League decide to stage a mini-cup tournament after lockdown restrictions end based on geographical groups. Pic: Martyn White.

Wessex chairman Nick Spencer is due to attend an online meeting of step 5 and 6 leagues called by the FA tomorrow (Thursday) where further updates on how 2020/21 could be brought to a conclusion are expected

A null and void verdict looks the most likely outcome after all clubs at steps 3-6 of the English pyramid were canvassed last month.

But if that is the case, Wessex officials are still hopeful of being able to run a mini competition of some sorts if football can return at some point in the spring.

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‘If it’s safe to do so, we’d love to organise some sort of football for the clubs,’ said Wessex secretary Greg Dickson.

‘Logistically, it could be viable.

‘We could have round-robin groups with winners progressing through to the play-offs and a final.

‘We did send an email to clubs asking them if they would be able to play through to the end of May.

‘Some had ground issues for Saturday matches, but some said they might be able to play on a Friday.’

‘I know some clubs could struggle for matchday volunteers who might have medical conditions, but we’ll be looking to do something when we get the green light to start playing again.’

That green light could arrive soon, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to update the nation on February 22 with a roadmap out of lockdown.

The Wessex League’s 39 clubs could be arranged into eight groups based around geography, with the winners advancing to the play-offs.

The eight groups could look something like this:

1 Blackfield, Hythe, Fawley, Romsey, Totton & Eling,

2 Stoneham, Hamble, Folland, Alresford, Downton

3 Hamworthy, Portland, Shaftesbury, Bournemouth, Christchurch, Bashley

4 New Milton, Lymington, Brockenhurst, Ringwood, Verwood

5 Amesbury, Bemerton, Laverstock, Andover NS, Andover Town

6 Tadley, Fleet Town, Alton, Whitchurch, Petersfield

7 US Portsmouth, Horndean, Fareham, AFC Portchester, Baffins

8 Cowes, East Cowes, Newport

Clubs from the Isle of Wight League - such as ex-Wessex Leaguers Brading - could be asked if they wanted to join the three Island-based Wessex clubs to form a larger group.

Teams could play each other home and away or just once, depending on how much time is available.

One alternative is to have six groups of six mainland clubs and an Isle of Wight group, with all the group winners and the mainland club with the second best record progressing to the play-offs.

Either way, it is food for thought.

If possible, the Wessex League are also keen to bring their League Cup tournament to a conclusion.

At present, US Portsmouth and Bemerton are through to the semi-finals while Hamworthy v Whitchurch and Bashley v Folland are the other two outstanding quarter-finals.

Across the county border into Sussex, the Southern Combination - also a step 5 and 6 league - are keen to facilitate a cup competition if the league season is cancelled.

SCL chairman Steve Nealgrove said: ‘I want us to try to complete the season if it is at all possible, but I also know that’s looking unrealistic.

‘Even if you were to extend the season until the end of May, you would have to ask teams to play three times a week. I don’t think that’s fair on clubs.

‘It puts players, managers, committees and club volunteers under a lot of pressure. It’s not sustainable.

‘If we can restart, say, in April, there will be a lot of teams wanting to play competitive football and we’re looking at playing all our cup competitions but perhaps in a group format so you could have groups of four or five and guarantee clubs at least three or four games.

‘I think many would welcome that.’

Wessex League clubs, meanwhile, have until this coming Sunday to apply for grants from the Government’s Sport Winter Survival Package.

Premier Division clubs can claim a maximum of £10,500 while clubs in Division 1 can claim a maximum of £7,500.

Despite that, very few Wessex clubs - hardly any in the Portsmouth area - have so far applied.

Laura Smith is available to help clubs through the application process. She can be contacted on [email protected]