Coronavirus: Two frustrated non-league bosses accept FA decision to end season

By Ged Scott & Trevor OwensBBC Sport
Non-league football match
All divisions from step three of the non-league pyramid downwards have been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic

The Football Association has come in for widespread criticism for cancelling the football season from step three downwards in England's non-league pyramid, but two bosses of Midlands-based non-league clubs say the ongoing coronavirus pandemic gave the football authorities no choice.

Several clubs across England are reportedly willing to challenge the FA's decision, which will see all results expunged and no promotion and relegation between the leagues involved.

"I could see it coming if I'm honest," said Bromsgrove Sporting manager Brendan Kelly.

"Obviously, we've got to take into consideration there's a national crisis going on at the minute."

Worcestershire club Rovers, who play in the seventh tier, were in the Southern League Premier Central play-off race and chasing a fourth successive promotion.

But Kelly told BBC Hereford & Worcester: "People's livelihoods and lives take priority so I can understand why they've done it.

"When I put my football head on, I'm a bit disappointed that they couldn't finish out to some extent with maybe a points-per-game calculation.

"But I'm guessing it's the fairest way they could have done it legally for everybody."

'We have to do what we're told'

Andy Morris, chief executive of Hereford-based promotion-chasing ninth-tier side Westfields, agrees that, at times like this, football is very much a secondary consideration when compared to the bigger picture.

"With what's going on in the nation at the moment and, when you listen to the Prime Minister, football pales into insignificance," said Morris.

"We've got to pay attention to everything that's going on around us, with people dying and others having problems with the economy and work.

"After all, at our level, football is recreation and sport, and it isn't top of everybody's list.

"We have to do what we're told by the Football Association and those running the country as well."

Westfields, in their first season in the Hellenic League Premier Division after transferring from the Midland Football League at the end of the 2018-19 campaign, were 13 points clear at the top of the table when the season was ended prematurely.

Even allowing for the fact that some challengers had up to four games in hand, Westfields were looking very well placed for promotion to the Southern League for the first time in their history.

"It's a hard pill to swallow because we're currently unbeaten," added Morris.

"I feel for those players for what they have done to get us where we are. It counts for nothing and we're now going to have to do it all again next season."

'I feel for the successful sides'

As in any walk of life, there were always going to be winners and losers. While Bromsgrove have been left very frustrated, relieved neighbours Alvechurch are among the beneficiaries.

After a tough season in the Southern League Premier, they were in the relegation places when the suspension of the leagues was implemented.

"Obviously, from a selfish point of view, we're pleased," said Alvechurch manager Ian Long.

"We were deep in a relegation battle that was always going to be difficult to get out of, so obviously we're happy for the reprieve.

"But we do feel sorry for some of the sides that have had good seasons and got themselves in really good positions for promotion and the play-off spots.

"It's obviously a completely different story for them and I do feel for them."

What did the FA say?

Announcing the decision on Thursday, the FA said in a statement: "These are challenging circumstances for English football and all decisions taken are in the best interests of the game.

"Our primary concern will always be for the safety and welfare of clubs, players, staff, officials, volunteers and supporters during this unprecedented time.

"The steps take into account the financial impact during this uncertain period, whilst considering the fairest method on how the sporting outcomes for the season will be decided, with the integrity of the leagues in mind."

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