Published: 06:00, 21 January 2021
| Updated: 07:38, 21 January 2021
Clubs in the Isthmian League have been asked to submit their views on what should happen to the current campaign.
The league have made it clear they would prefer to null and void the 2020/21 season but are willing to listen to what their member clubs have to say, with several other options up for discussion.
Herne Bay had played six league matches before the season was suspended because of the heightened Covid restrictions. The club's board were due to discuss the matter this week ahead of a Friday deadline for submissions set by the league.
Bay chairman Stuart Fitchie admits the matter isn’t straightforward, saying: “I think there is more to it than just null and voiding it.
“I think there would be credibility lost. We have to keep the integrity there. We have got to be realistic and the world we are living in is crazy and so we have to think outside the box. It is not a straightforward decision.
“I think this season should be cancelled, personally, but how it is cancelled I haven’t decided yet, not necessarily just expunge.
“We should then go back to football when there is a sense of normality, when business can run as they have done in the years before.”
The 2019/20 season was scrapped with more than half of the season played but no teams in the Isthmian League were rewarded for success and no teams were relegated.
Options put forward by the league this time around include playing each other just once in an effort to reduce fixture congestion when games can be restarted, to suspend the season now and return when it is safe, to restart from where they left off in August or to merge the records from last season into the current one.
What happens in the Isthmian League is likely to have a knock-on effect for the Southern Counties East Football League. If the Isthmian League stops play then the SCEFL is likely to do the same, as there would be no means of promotion. That would also end Canterbury City’s campaign.
Above the Isthmian League, meanwhile, there is concern that the National League may be about to stop. Clubs are being told that future funding will be through loans rather than grants, potentially putting them in a difficult position financially.
Isthmian League chairman Nick Robinson, meanwhile, has made it clear they would prefer to start afresh, saying: “The view of the boards was ‘let’s work towards the second Saturday in August, let’s work towards having a really good 2021-22 season’. We put two bad seasons behind us and we really work positively towards that.”
Clubs at the Isthmian League level are reliant on supporters to keep the bills being paid. Fans were being allowed in when the season started, with Bay’s capacity limited to 400.
Mr Fitchie says Herne Bay is stable. Now in his second season at the helm, he commented: “We have put in a rigorous plan in terms of where we sit financially and what kind of expenditure we have got planned.
“The council have been extremely understanding with the situation and as long as the outgoings don’t exceed the incomings to a degree then we will be fine. We have no issues financially. We are not flush with cash but we have been sensible.”
As a fan, the chairman just can’t wait for normal football to return, saying: “I enjoyed every single minute of the 2019/20 season, my son was born in the August and so trying to balance football and being a father for the first time was hard and challenging but I absolutely loved it. I am ambitious, I throw myself into it fully, so that was great.
“I was then devastated the season came to an end and it hasn’t been the same since. We were allowed to play (the 2020/21 season, which kicked off mid-September) but there have been so many guidelines, red tape, and it became a regimented event.
“We were asking people to do things, turning people away, it took that escape from the real world that football can provide out of it. It was just another arena where you had to follow the same rules.
“For many football is an escape. It took that special occasion out of it for them. It was overshadowed by all of the restrictions and procedures we have to put in place.
“I am definitely missing football but I am missing football from 2019.”
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