Season Expunged – Isthmian League chairman gives explanation to Thurrock football clubs

FOOTBALL clubs in Thurrock have today been given an explanation by the Isthmian League chairman as to why the decision was taken to terminate the season on Thursday (9th April).

Football clubs in the area effected by this decision include East Thurrock United, who are currently Isthmian League Premier Division, and Grays Athletic FC and Aveley FC, who are both in the Isthmian League North Division.

Below is from The Isthmian League website.

isthmian league

Isthmian League chairman Nick Robinson today wrote to each of the league’s clubs to explain why the decision was taken to terminate the season and expunge the records, as confirmed by the FA on Thursday. In his letter Nick explains the timelines involved and the details of the discussions held, and we’ve summarised the main points below:

Consultation

On Friday 20th March, the Northern Premier, Southern and Isthmian Leagues were each asked to provide a view on whether the season should be terminated and, if so, on what basis. We were required to provide that view by first thing on Monday 23rd March; on the Saturday the Isthmian Board of directors held a video conference and discussed the matter at length. The overwhelming majority view was that the season be terminated and treated as “null and void,” and I attended a video conference of the Alliance Leagues on the Monday with that mandate.

Following extensive discussions the NPL and the SFL boards agreed to support “null & void” whilst the National League wished to align itself with the professional game and did not accept the option preferred by Steps 3 and 4.

On Tuesday 24 March the League representatives attended another video conference, this time with the Leagues Committee Chair and Vice Chair; that League had been evenly split on a vote between “null and void” and Points Per Match but the Committee had decided to support the null and void option. It was the decision of this joint meeting which led to the announcement by The FA on Thursday 26 March.

Key factors

The Alliance Committee and Leagues Committee considered an indefinite extension to the season for Steps 3 to 7 but concluded this was not the best option for the following reasons:

• Lack of certainty as to when it will be safe to resume football. If it cannot be resumed for a significant period of time, this may: (a) impact upon the start date and scheduling of the 2020/21 season (b) create uncertainty regarding playing contracts and therefore club squads; and (c) not provide players a sufficient period of rest between seasons.

• In the Isthmian League, 24% of matches were left to play. On the basis that a Club was able to play between 1.5 and 2 matches per week, this would require a time period of between 8 and 11 weeks in order to play out those fixtures. This is before consideration is given to the period of time required for players to become match-fit and the period of time required for the play-off matches to take place prior to the commencement of the 2020/21 season.

• Most player contracts last until the first Saturday in May, or the last competitive match of the season. By extending, or ‘pausing’ the season, clubs would be required to pay those players without any matchday income, possibly for months on end. For the season to be extended indefinitely would likely create considerable uncertainty as to the status of those players beyond that date.

• It may not be possible, practically or logistically, for Clubs to be able to resume the playing season. For example, primacy of tenure at a Club’s ground could preclude that number of matches being played per week and a Club’s ability to use its current venue may be impacted by the current crisis.

Points Per Match vs Null & Void

Serious consideration was given by the Alliance and Leagues Committees to whether a mechanism (Points Per Match or variations thereof) should be used to calculate final league tables and preserve promotion and relegation.

This was not felt to be the best option because of the significant number of clubs and leagues making up Steps 3 to 7 and the potential variables that might influence the outcome of the season. Whilst some clubs were well ahead in their league, the relegation picture was far from clear.

I fully recognise that the ‘null & void’ option has left with some clubs feeling a sense of injustice. The reality, however, is that many more clubs may have felt the same had the Points Per Match option been preferred.

The ‘null & void’ option provides clubs, their players, officials and supporters with clarity. It also recognises that, in the Isthmian League, no promotion or relegation place was guaranteed at the point fixtures were curtailed.’

Each club has a full copy of this letter.

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