On the 26th March 2020 the Football Association (FA) announced that all football from steps 3-6 in the non-league system would be brought to an abrupt halt, all results expunged and the leagues would be voided because of the Corona Virus. This affected every club in those leagues but in particular Hanwell Town who play in the BetVictor Isthmian South Central Division as they came so close to a well-deserved promotion being top basically all season with only ten games to go.
Four months ago, no one knew COVID-19 (Corona Virus) existed. Now the virus has spread to almost every country, infecting a staggering one million people who we know about, many cases who we don’t whilst it continues to rapidly increase every day. Not since World War II has a crisis of these proportions presented itself to the world.
Procedures had to be put in place to stop the rapid spread of the virus and any large gatherings had to be postponed or cancelled. Countless sporting events such as Euro 2020, the UEFA Champions league, Tokyo Olympics 2020 have had to be postponed and Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II.
Due to the coronavirus measures, sports clubs across the world are now finding themselves standing still for the first time with no imminent prospect of getting their training routines back on course. This presents a number of issues to every club mainly financially but non-league clubs will be affected the worst with no income for the foreseeable future which could lead to some clubs going under. The FA may have to go into their own pocket to support clubs in these devastating times.
On the 13th of March the BetVictor Isthmian League released a statement and they temporarily suspended the league’s fixtures for one game week due to the virus.
Four days later proceedings developed further and after following statements from the UK Government as well as statements from the FA, the Leagues forming Steps 1-4 of the National Leagues System with representatives of Steps 5-6 met by conference call and decided that all matches be suspended until April 3. The league released this following statement.
Over the next few days everyone was waiting anxiously to find out what would happen next but the virus continued to spread and worsen forcing the UK to go into lockdown on the 23rd of march (in the meantime Hanwell were named Charter Standard Club of the Month for March due to some fantastic community work).
As things got drastically worse and the UK were now in lockdown this sadly meant that football wouldn’t be recommencing and on the afternoon of the 26th of march the FA and the National League System (NLS) announced that for NLS steps three to six, the 2019-20 season will now be brought to an end, and all results will be expunged. This means there’ll be no promotion or relegation of clubs between NLS steps three to six, and no promotion to NLS step two.
The FA said: “We have been working collaboratively with the National League System and the wider grassroots game since the outbreak of COVID-19 on how to conclude the 2019-20 season in the most appropriate way possible.
“These are challenging circumstances for English football and all decisions taken are in the best interests of the game and in consultation across key stakeholders. Our primary concern will always be for the safety and welfare of clubs, players, staff, officials, volunteers and supporters during this unprecedented time.
“Today’s steps take into account the financial impact during this uncertain period, whilst considering the fairest method on how the sporting outcomes for the season will be decided with the integrity of the leagues in mind.
“Furthermore, we can now confirm that we have decided that all grassroots football is concluded for the 2019-20 season. This will allow the game to move forward and to commence planning for next season. Our County Football Associations will be supporting grassroots leagues over the coming days to determine how they should close out their current competitions.”
Unfortunately for the FA a growing number of non-league clubs oppose this decision and are prepared to protest as they believe the decision wasn’t thought through properly and was rushed. Clubs have issued the point of “how can you say a league hasn’t happened?” and believe there should be an alternative solution, with some clubs pondering whether or not to take legal action.
If an alternative solution can be found it’d be great otherwise this is an extremely bitter pill to swallow for a team such as Hanwell Town because they had been top of the league for virtually the whole season and as the league stood when the void was announced they were six points off top with two games in hand as well as having a better goal difference than 1st placed Ware.
They gave everything in the tank from the top of the club down to the bottom with everyone playing a part in what was the closest the club had ever come to step 3 football. It doesn’t seem right to diminish all the hard work in some respects and there’s lots of other teams going through the same disappointment but people’s health always comes first and some things are more important than football even though some people will strongly disagree with the decision.
I managed to catch up with a few of the Hanwell players, manager Wayne Carter and Commercial Director Nigel hunt in separate interviews to find out how they’ve been coping during these unprecedented times and what implications have developed from this. These interviews can be found by clicking one of the options down below: