’It’s a no-win situation’ – Stowmarket boss Andrews after league’s decision to look to terminate the season
PUBLISHED: 20:02 24 March 2020 | UPDATED: 20:06 24 March 2020
Football writer Carl Marston talks to Stowmarket Town manager Rick Andrews and Hadleigh United boss Christian Appleford in the wake of the decision to seek termination of this season, from Steps 3 to 6
This season is effectively over, for all of Suffolk’s leading non-league clubs, although the Football Association insisted tonight that ‘no official decision has been made regarding the end of the season in England’s non-league football pyramid.’
Earlier in the day, the Southern, Isthmian and Northern Premier Leagues revealed that they were unanimous in wanting to terminate the 2019-20 season immediately, and have therefore ‘implemented the process to terminate the season,’ in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Leiston, Lowestoft Town and Needham Market are all affected at Step Three level, in the Southern League Premier Central, as are the likes of Bury Town, AFC Sudbury and Felixstowe & Walton United at Step Four, in the Isthmian League North.
Likewise, the leagues at Step Five and Step Six have also revealed their intention to end the season, although no final decision has yet been made as to whether to call the season null-and-void, or decide the final placings on an average points-per-games basis.
Runaway Thurlow Nunn League Premier leaders Stowmarket Town will be particularly affected by the choice of outcome as, at the other end of the table, will be second-from-bottom Hadleigh United.
Stowmarket are 15 points clear at the top of the Thurlow Nunn Premier, with just 10 games remaining, and so were within touching distance of promotion to Step Four.
Yet Stowmarket manager, Rick Andrews, is philosophical about the whole situation, agreeing that it was the right decision to call off the season, and that whatever the league ultimately decides “will not please everyone.”
Andrews said tonight: “I can’t say I’m shocked by today’s announcement. These are tough times at the moment and we are currently on day one of a three-week lock-down, at the very least.
“This virus puts everything into perspective and at the end of the day whatever the league decides to do, in terms of how the season will be decided, everyone will just have to take it on the chin.
“They were in a no-win situation really, especially as there was no prospect of the season starting again until May, at the earliest, which would have seen matches go into June and July.
“Now everyone must accept the final decision, whether that means a points-per-game ratio or the season being null and void.
“At least this latest announcement should bring closure to it, as regards whether we were going to play again this season,” added Andrews.
Hadleigh, meanwhile, are second-from-bottom of the Thurlow Nunn Premier, level on points with basement dwellers Gorleston, although third-from-bottom Ely City are only four points better off, having played three more games.
And Hadleigh manager, Christian Appleford, wants the 2019-20 season to be declared ‘null and void.’
“I do feel for clubs who deserve to be promoted, but I just think the season should be declared null and void,” explained Appleford this evening.
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“The competition has not been completed, and there’s always a chance that a club could go on a late run like Ely City did at the end of last season to get enough points to stay up.
“To decide the league placings on an average points-per-game system would be a hard one, because that wouldn’t tell you the story of a whole season.
“For instance, we have played all the top six teams twice already, apart from Newmarket, Norwich United and Wroxham, whereas many of our rivals down near the bottom still have a lot of the top teams to play, some of them twice.
“Are such teams going to take points off the likes of Stowmarket, Stanway, Newmarket and Wroxham? Probably not.
“Of course, as we all know, football is a funny old game, and there are always shock results, but to do a points-per-game ratio would not be a true reflection of a season as a whole.
“This situation could not have been foreseen. It’s a global, not just a national problem.
“I feel for the clubs who deserve to go up, but I just think that we should put everything together and call the season null and void.
“I know that the various leagues have been considering the opinions of the individual clubs, and I think there might be a consensus for a points-per-game outcome, but I think it should be null and void.
“We have games in hand over some of the other clubs, and either we or Gorleston could just as easily go on a six-match unbeaten run.
“Certainly, it was the correct decision by the leagues to say that they wanted to end the season immediately,” added Appleford.
Meanwhile,a statement on the Southern League website confirmed:
‘Whether that (how the season ends) is done on the basis of determining final placings via average points per game, or the season is declared null & void, cannot be decided until the National League (Steps One and Two) decides how it wishes to proceed.
‘Right now, the National League’s position is that they wish to be able to resume the 2019-20 season at some point.
‘The feeder Leagues do not support this because our clubs do not have the financial resources to continue to honour player contracts indefinitely.
‘The Southern, Isthmian and Northern Premier Leagues have therefore implemented the process to terminate the season.
‘This has to be ratified by FA council, so there may be a short delay as the relevant documentation is submitted, distributed and approved.
‘Whilst this process is on-going, and once the National League has finalised how it wishes to proceed, competition issues can then be decided, together with the implications for promotion and relegation.’