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Sheppey United manager Ernie Batten says the players should decide on when the Southern Counties East Football League resumes

Sheppey United manager Ernie Batten believes the footballers should be consulted about whether or not the league gets back under way before the turn of the year.

The Southern Counties East Football League is currently suspended until Boxing Day at the earliest, awaiting details of any changes to the tier system, which is due to be announced next week.

Sheppey United manager Ernie Batten is keen to get back to league action Picture: Andy Jones
Sheppey United manager Ernie Batten is keen to get back to league action Picture: Andy Jones

Batten’s side were in FA Vase action at the weekend and he wants to get back playing in the league as soon as possible, something he believes the players would welcome.

Clubs have been consulted throughout by the league and there are fears from some about missing out on gate receipts, while having to pay players and expenses. But with most players turning out for their teams in friendly fixtures anyway, which incurs many of the usual matchday costs, Batten is left wondering why they aren’t playing for points.

“I feel people want to play football,” said the manager.

“I know the clubs have been asked what their views were on playing behind closed doors, they have been saying no and that they have expenses to pay, but we still have expenses, whether people are here or not.

“I think if each club was given an opportunity to speak to their players and explain the options, that perhaps you can play for expenses, no wages as such, or we don’t play and we have the risk of another season without playing at all.

“Could we play behind closed doors for the next few weeks and everyone just gets expenses? It keeps costs down and I reckon players want to play. The danger is we are going to get so many games behind the season is not going to happen.”

Sheppey have 31 remaining league fixtures to play, more than any other in the Premier Division and have until mid-May to fit them in, roughly two games a week already and before any get called off because of the weather.

Leagues are free to resume but the SCEFL opted for a pause after Kent was placed in tier three of Covid restrictions while some of their participating teams and players are in tier two, meaning a flow between the two areas. Games in tier three areas are not allowed crowds at games.

Batten said: “The government are saying we can play but they don’t want crowds. Why can’t we play football behind closed doors?

“I might be the only manager saying it but I think we should put it in the hands of the players. It is just short term. If we can play two or three games (behind closed doors) it could make all the difference.

“People including myself are down in the dumps because we can’t kick a football. I am all for it, just short term.

“We are playing friendlies anyway, everyone is playing friendlies, we are having them behind closed doors. Referees have to be paid, electricity and water has to be paid. If players are willing to come in for friendlies, presumably they are not getting paid, then why wouldn’t they want to come in for a league game? I think that finishes the argument for me.”

Sheppey are due to play SCEFL Division 1 side Kennington in a friendly this weekend and Isthmian League side Ramsgate the following week. The Isthmian League - the one above the SCEFL - have currently suspended matches with no fixed time frame on a return.

Read more on non-league football in Kent

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