The wait goes on for King’s Lynn Town - what’s the best way to sort ‘sporting outcomes’?
- Credit: Archant
What comes next? For King’s Lynn Town, it is an anxious waiting game as National League officials try to make sense of football before, during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Chris Lakey looks at some of the options.
So many questions... so few answers.
King’s Lynn Town’s last league game was on March 14. Just short of six weeks later the National League board crossed out the words “season suspended” to “season cancelled” because of the coronavirus pandemic. It took a while, but with the help of most clubs agreeing with their recommendation to do so, it was the only sensible decision.
For the league, it is tough: it is easy to criticise, but they have some major issues to take into consideration, and both are unknown. The first is the pandemic itself: no one knows when life will even begin to return to normal, let alone when football games, with or without crowds, can therefore resume. Football administrators are not doctors.
Secondly, they are somewhat beholden to the football clubs and governing bodies above them in the league system, given that the National League feeds into the EFL which feeds into the Premier League - and the EFL and the Premier League have yet to decide what they are doing.
So the National League has been in a very difficult position, let’s be fair about that. Yes, communication might have been better, but again, how many of its officials have signed the Hippocratic Oath?
So, today, we all await the next move – and it is complex.
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Now the season is officially over, how do they decide what they refer to as the “sporting outcomes”?
In the words of National League chief executive officer, Michael Tattersall: “The options concerning the sporting outcomes of the 2019/20 season remain under careful and timely consideration, and further updates will be given in due course.”
The decision to cancel the season was, to be honest, quite obvious wasn’t it?
This next one is not. The suggestion is that clubs will be polled, rather than having a vote.
This is not just semantics, this is important: a vote means action will be taken as a result of the preference shown in the vote; a poll gives an idea of the general preference and doesn’t mean action will be taken in the same way as a vote - it is for advice and interest.
The options for these “sporting outcomes” may well rest with how many teams can go into the EFL’s League Two. Ordinarily it would be two: the champions and the play-off winners. Four clubs are relegated – two to National League North (in which King’s Lynn Town play) and two to National League South. And two go up from North and South – the champions and the play-off winners.
Let’s assume that movement is how it stays– but with a curtailed season, who goes up and who goes down - and what system calculates it?
Final table stands
Pros: It’s easy. No messing.
Cons: Some teams have played more than others, so are at an advantage. So it is not particularly fair.
Pros: Adds a bit more fairness to the equation – why should those in play-off positions not be allowed to play off?
Cons: Plenty ... King’s Lynn are second in the National League North, two points behind York, but with two games in hand – why would it be fair to put them into the play-offs? And again, some teams just outside the play-off positions have games in hand on some of those in them. And when would the play-offs be? Hardly possible to play them soon - and playing them closer to next season than this one is fraught with problems – you can’t leave it that late to know which league a team is playing in. The commercial side – sponsorship, season ticket sales etc – is a minefield. Also, the season has been cancelled – surely that includes the play-offs schedule?
Points Per Game
Pros: Seems to be more fair. An average points haul doesn’t disadvantage teams who have played fewer games. It is also more reflective of the season’s form.
Cons: Who’s to say Lynn would win their two games in hand? One of the joys of football is the absolute certainty that there is no certainty.
Null and void all results
Pros: Perhaps a more ethical solution given that lives are still being lost at an alarming rate and sport is a very distant second in importance. Also, solves massive problems given it leaves everyone in the same boat... and it has happened in steps 3-7 already.
Cons: For starters, many of those clubs in steps 3-7 were furious that their hard work over the best part of a season counts for nothing. The further you go up the food chain the more money is involved. And when there is money to be lost through no fault of your own, there are usually winners - the legal profession in this case. Could the National League cope with a mass of legal actions against it?
Conclusion: The football season past surely cannot become irrelevant when there are workable alternatives: not just because it would not be fair on those involved, from fans, to players, to owners and employees, but because football must retain some sort of credibility.
And being unable to find a solution other than ripping it all up would suggest football has taken the easy route and buried its head in the sand, however unprecedented the situation.