The following memo has been sent to all our clubs this evening.
At the time of writing it is not known whether or not football at our level will be allowed to resume after the current lockdown, the final day of which is Tuesday 2 December. This memo has been written in anticipation that we will be able to play football with spectators again after that date.
The Board had previously discussed this matter and it had been agreed that League fixtures would resume on Saturday 5 December (unless anyone wished to pay on either Wednesday 3rd or Thursday 4th).
The League has since received representations from 3 of our 40 senior clubs suggesting that we should delay the resumption by a week or so to allow players to prepare more fully either by training or playing friendly match(es). Thanks go to the three clubs whose messages were all constructive and deserved consideration. Because of this, the matter was resurrected and placed on the agenda for yesterday evening’s full Management Committee meeting, which included three club representatives.
The following points were considered:
The welfare of players is, of course, very important. On the other side of the coin though, time is against us, and by delaying further, players’ welfare could be put under greater stress as explained below.
At this moment the average number of matches played by each club in the Premier Division is ten (exactly). In Division One it is slightly lower. On that basis each club has 28 league matches or thereabouts to fulfil. There are 23 Saturdays available between Saturday 5 December and 8 May inclusive (including Monday 28 December, where there is a virtual full programme). That means that each club would face a minimum of five midweek matches, were it is simple as that.
Of course, that isn’t the case for a number of reasons:
1. There could well be a further “lockdown”
2. Even without a further stoppage, it is likely that a number of games will have to be postponed and then re-arranged due to Covid precautions.
3. On average, we lose around 150 scheduled league matches every season postponed for weather reasons which equates to more than 7 full Saturdays.
4. The FA is continuing with the FA Vase competition and our two most prominent Counties are proceeding with their cup competitions. With our own internal competitions well under way, we don’t wish to abandon them either, unless we are forced to do so. They all mean additional matches though for some if not all.
5. There is a potential problem for ground sharing clubs in that they will be competing against their host clubs for new midweek dates for the matches that have been lost.
All of the above will lead to further postponements of league matches to the point where it is likely to be unavoidable that clubs will need on occasions to play twice in a midweek, which in other words means four games in eight days, or six games in 15 days, a situation that may well lead to more injuries and thus, a greater concern for player welfare. It is felt that we need to mitigate that as far as possible.
It was also considered that the present lockdown has only affected four Saturdays, obviously a much shorter period than the usual close season, and hopefully too short a period for players to become too unfit, especially if, as senior players playing for senior clubs, they will have been keeping themselves fit during this current period. Clearly match fitness is not the same as normal fitness but everyone is in the same boat.
All these points were considered by the Management Committee who felt on balance that the previous decision of the Board should be endorsed. There was a vote which resulted in 14 votes in favour of resumption, on Saturday 5 December, with 4 abstentions and nobody against.
This means, therefore, that CCL matches will re-commence on Saturday 5 December, subject to approval from the Government and the FA.
Two clubs have also raised the possibility of changing the substitute rule to allow all five substitutes to play in any given match. This would contravene current rules but may well be a sensible option with so many matches to get in. It will be put to the FA at the next remote meeting we have with them on 26 November, when hopefully there will be more meaningful information available.