Published: 09:00, 06 May 2020
| Updated: 09:21, 06 May 2020
Gillingham chairman Paul Scally suggests football might need to go into hibernation and the manager agrees.
Boss Steve Evans had hoped to be back training this month and possibly playing by next - the Gills are preparing for such a scenario - but the complexities mean that’s looking unlikely. It could mean football taking a break until the autumn.
Evans said “Let’s get to a period of time when we can safely finish the season and nobody can query anyone’s success or failure.
“Let’s go into hibernation, let’s go away for three or four months. We know we would be coming back with different types of player but we can come back with the integrity to finish the season like we set out last August.
“We could go back on say October 1, by mid-November we have got our season sorted, promotions and relegation and then bang, you could be going again in January for a new season, then a summer break at the end of that, but we need to do something.”
Hibernating the season is a view shared by the Gills chairman.
Mr Scally said: “My view is that we wont be playing football for a good five to six months, if not longer.
“We could come out whenever that be and finish the season off and we may not start next season until some time through next year, or we just expunge the season and everyone stays where they are.”
Evans had been banging the drum for a quick return and initially wanted this season done by the end of July or scrapped, but he’s seen and heard enough from the government’s medical experts to know a quick return is unlikely.
He said: “It might be a decision that is out of my hands but for me, there are two alternatives. Number one, clearly the preferred option, is that we finish the season.
“I think for us to do that we are going to have to go into hibernation for a little while. It’s a contact sport. I listened to the chief exec of the cricket board on the TV in parliament (on Tuesday) and they say they have concerns and that is cricket, that is not a contact sport.
“We are contact. The medical science from the government are quite clear. We could go into some kind of hibernation and we don’t rush into playing, for the safety of the players and the staff and those who attend the game, that is of paramount importance, not money.
“My view is that we go into hibernation until a date that is realistic and we come out and then finish the season, in a safe environment.
“It would be played without fans and that is terrible, football is not anything with supporters, but hopefully that is for a small limited time, then we can focus on the next season, whether it is a short season, or a longer one.
“The other option to that is that we expunge the season. Time up, no relegation, no promotion, we start as we did last August. It would hurt Leeds United who I love, top of the Championship, I love Peterborough United and fancy them for promotion, it hurts teams I have a real affinity for and it hurts us because I think we have a chance of getting into the play-offs.
“But, what I would say, I would hate to be the person who has to make the call to one of our players’ wives, mum or dad, children, brothers, to say we have taken your son to hospital with this virus. There is always a risk of picking up a head knock or breaking a leg, that is part and parcel, but this virus is not.
“It will be interesting to see what our prime minster says on Sunday. If somebody rules that we play, I don’t know how we are going to manage the sterile areas at our level. It only takes one player to pick up that virus, not knowing he has got it. He could get it coming in going to get some fuel, anything, he could give it to up to 40-50 people.”
Asked about his change of opinion, he said: “I got a little taken aback when listening to the politicians and the medial and the science people. There is a lady on there, the assistant top medical person, and she says going into a beer garden at a pub is possibly a problem.
“Us and rugby are the two most contact sports, if you like, rugby more than us, but when we come out, we come out with the medical science people saying it is largely safe now. We have to come out in a safe period, as safe as we can.”
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More by this authorLuke Cawdell