Following on from last week’s views on the lessons football must learn from the coronavirus shutdown, experienced Non-League manager Paul Doswell gives his forthright opinion on how the game must be innovative to get through this uncertain period.
Innovation needs to happen NOW! You can almost forget promotion and relegation.
From what I’m seeing – and what I believe will come to everyone, in particular, League Two as well as the National League, North and South – clubs will potentially be asking not to be promoted or relegated out of their particular league because they can’t afford to sustain that level of football.
The National League AGM could almost be a promotion and relegation AGM where clubs look at their own financial situation and decide whether promotion is realistic. Or indeed would relegation become the club’s saviour.
I could be wrong, but reading between the lines of the Wealdstone FC statement, they seem to be suggesting how the season finishes isn’t the most important thing. Instead it’s the survival of their club.
Wouldn’t it be a shame if clubs couldn’t take promotion for financial reasons brought on by this pandemic?
So this is why I say innovation must happen now. Clubs’ futures are at stake.
So how about amalgamating League One and League Two and regionalising? You could split the National League in half as North and South Premier divisions.
You then invite the current top 10 – or 12 – from the National League North and South to make two divisions of 22.
The feeder leagues then do similar and below can shuffle up too. For example the clubs feeling aggrieved in the Isthmian Premier, Northern Premier League and Southern League Premier would get the promotion they deserve into the new National North or National South. In principle this could work through the whole pyramid system. It means from League One down there would be regional football.
The benefits to regional football are two-fold. The first being top tier Non-League clubs wouldn’t have to pay out £80,000/year in travelling.
Secondly, it provides competitive local derbies every week. That will be good for the fans. It’s likely disposable income will be in short supply. I really believe people will come back to football to watch in their numbers. But it needs to be affordable. Non-League only exists on the back of supporters and matchday income.
If something like regionalising happened for a three-year period – and the effects of this situation will last that long before everything settles down again – it could breathe life into the game.
After that, people may want it to go back to how it is now because it is deemed the best way. We’re not talking forever. But, as I’ve said before, it’s not right that within six weeks any business becomes insolvent so quickly.
I haven’t heard one chairman from League One, League Two or the National League come out and say, ‘We’re swimming through this, I don’t know what everyone is worried about’.
It will be interesting what the government guidelines will be. The League of Ireland are talking to their government about a return to football in front of fans with gatherings of less than 5,000. Is that a situation that could also be a route back for Non-League football?
If not, I genuinely fear we could be looking at not coming back until Christmas. Those decisions are out of football’s hands.
If we’re all honest, you can’t see a situation where we will be back playing in July or August. They’ve cancelled the Munich Beer Festival at the end of September – Germany have got a much better infection rate and death rate than us!
So can we be innovative? Can we do something different for three years? This is going to be a hard period. And that’s why I say we shouldn’t get too worked up about promotion or relegation because I think a lot of clubs won’t be able to take promotion even if they are offered it.
We must make changes to protect the game we all love.
ALL NEW National League Premier NORTH:
FC Halifax Town
King’s Lynn Town
ALL NEW National League Premier SOUTH:
Dagenham & Redbridge
Havant & Waterlooville
Hampton & Richmond
Tagged Paul Doswell