Ramsbottom United were dealt a bitter blow last week after finding out the 2019/20 season would not be completed due to COVID-19. Second, in the table with only one league defeat since the start of November has seen the Rams produce an array of performances and results not seen since the era of Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley.
While of course, the health of the nation remains everyone’s priority for the coming weeks and even months, the disappointment in terminating the Non-League season below the National League North and South has come as a surprise, especially with the Premier League and EFL’s fate still to be decided and the National League seasons only suspended.
As it stands, Barrow, who sit top of the National League would still have a shot at promotion yet Workington, who stand at the summit of Rammy’s division will have their chances of glory ended even though they are only three leagues below. Again, despite the fact football stands well behind health and economic concern, many clubs are not happy with the FA’s decision.
More than 100 football clubs including League One Peterborough and their owner Darragh MacAnthony have sent their disgruntlement to the English Football headquarters regarding the decision to stop all promotion and relegation below National League North and South, calling for a re-think to this dramatic decision. Salford City co-owner Gary Neville also voiced his surprise at the FA’s position.
With all the talk in the game about whether Liverpool or Leeds United should see their seasons work go rewarded or un-rewarded, what about that of Ramsbottom, their fellow competitors Workington and also South Shields, who are leaders of the Bet-Victor Premier Division by 12 points?
The joint club statement reads: “Our concern is grounded primarily in the needless and inexplicable haste exercised in reaching the decision, coupled with a total lack of substantive dialogue or consultation with affected clubs.
The decision also disregards the millions of pounds invested and countless hours expended collectively by clubs, and so has critical financial implications.
In writing this joint letter, we recognise that the decision to expunge results for the 2019-20 season still pends official ratification from the FA Council.
However, we believe it is unacceptable that such a decision has been handed down to us in this manner. We urgently seek constructive dialogue with the FA with the aim to have the decision reconsidered.”
And yes, while Ramsbottom United were only second in the league and 10 points behind Workington with three games in hand, performances over the last 20 games suggest a matchplay style shootout between the two sides would have ensued in the run-in period of the season, similar to that of the game contested between the sides at the end of January. We cannot say Chris Willcock’s side would have guaranteed promotion if the world was still working normally, but the past tells us a lot about the future and this is no exception.
The FA statement in response to the lower league football rally stated:
“The decision taken to end the 2019-20 season across steps 3-7 of the National League system, the women’s football pyramid and the wider grassroots game was made by committee representatives for the respective leagues, and was supported by the FA Board and the FA Women’s Board.
“It will now go to the FA Council for ratification. We fully support the decision they came to during these challenging and unprecedented circumstances for English football.”
For now, we see Rammy’s fate is still well within the hands of the FA however a sole candle is still burning on their hopes of the season re-starting at some point. Whether that be summer or autumn is anybody’s guess and only when Britain has a firm grip on the coronavirus. Perhaps the best decision to make is for all of English Football from top to bottom follows the same decision strategy- finish the season or abandon it.