Impassioned Barrow manager Ian Evatt insists the National League season cannot be allowed to be voided, warning the league leaders would struggle to recover from the sucker punch of being denied promotion.
The football landscape has been decimated by the escalating coronavirus crisis, with the game halted across the country in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The Premier League and Football League intend to finish their seasons, but the Football Association has been going through consultation and scenario-planning with stakeholders across all levels of English football.
Talks are ongoing with regards to non-league competitions, but National League chief executive Michael Tattersal told member clubs in a statement published on Wednesday that the organisation has asked the FA for help with “making the decisions to officially postpone all remaining National League fixtures and to end the season as soon as possible for the purposes of player contracts”.
It takes just 20 seconds to wash your hands! 🧼— Barrow A.F.C. (@BarrowAFC) March 24, 2020
He said in a statement the National League was “working with the FA to define all reasonable and practical options for the determination of the 2019/20 season”.
It has been reported that the majority of National League clubs have begrudgingly agreed that voiding the campaign is the most realistic way forward – a plan that infuriates Barrow manager Evatt, whose table-topping side are on the brink of promotion.
Asked how the club would recover from such a blow, he told the PA news agency: “I don’t think it would recover. That’s being frank.
“I don’t see how you can, in the interest of fairness, void the season when some teams in our league have only got seven games to play.
“For me, I get people are going to say, ‘Well, you’re top of the league, it’s easy to say’, but I genuinely believe my view would be the same regardless (of where we are) – you are where you are at the moment and you are where you deserve to be.
“Now if this was halfway through the season or under, you can completely understand voiding a season.
“But we’re talking about, from some clubs’ perspective, seven games. Seven games away from completing the season.
“You cannot, you cannot, null and void it.
“And if that was the case, obviously my board of directors, the chairman would probably look at their investment in the football club.
“We run our club properly. We don’t overspend, we don’t sign players on thousands of pounds in the National League like some do.
“But they’ve redeveloped the ground, there’s stuff going on at the moment which obviously needs to comply with the EFL because we’re confident of getting the job done.
“We’ve been top for five months and no-one, no disrespect to anyone, has really come that close to us.
“From our perspective, the interest of fairness would be for us to be promoted and that is my view regardless of where I am right now because of how many games have been played and where we’re at in the season.”
Evatt, whose side sit four points ahead of closest rivals Harrogate, has implored football’s authorities to get a grip on the situation as quickly as possible, saying: “It’s the unknown that’s killing everybody.”
The Barrow boss does not expect “a quick answer or quick fix” but believes one is necessary to save clubs in an unprecedented period of unease.
“How can we as a football nation, as the Premier League, EFL, be deluded enough to think that we could kick off again in May or June with the way things are? It’s just not going to happen,” Evatt said.
“So we need to make decisions, we need to make them now or we’re going to lose football clubs, not just in the National League and below, but I would think EFL clubs as well.”
The FA said on Tuesday that it remains “in regular dialogue and consultation with all stakeholders regarding next steps” and Evatt believes leagues should be decided at this stage like an abandoned match.
“If you were to play a 90-minute football match and something was to happen in the last 15 minutes of a game, the result would stand if it was abandoned,” the Barrow manager said. “So why is it not the same for a full season?
“Whether they want to not relegate and just promote and make leagues bigger, which I’ve seen (reported), and not have FA Cup or League Cup or whatever else to make it work, then do it.
“But the facts are we’re not going to be kicking off anytime soon and, when we do eventually kick off again, it certainly won’t be fair for teams that are up there to go and play a nine-game season or a seven-game season in some instances in our league.”
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