We received confirmation from the chairman of the Isthmian league last week that our 2020/21 football season has been curtailed, which effectively means it has stopped and will not resume. This decision is still subject to ratification from the FA Council, but with the National Leagues North and South above us declaring their season null and void, it is extremely unlikely the decision will reverse, with no promotion/relegation to play for.
As frustrating as this is, we completely acknowledge the much wider challenges society is dealing with and totally accept the advice of the scientists and, in whatever way we can, we will play our role to support our community through the roadmap out of lockdown. We also recognise the multiple reasons why both this season and last season had to be stopped. There has been a lot said, most of which has made eminent sense.
Where real frustrations exist for our club is, having determined the 2019/20 season needed to stop, why make it null and void with all the finality that has meant. Having played 34 games, 80% of the season, our senior men’s team were top of the Isthmian Premier League, with automatic promotion firmly in our sights. Instead of curtailing the season, which would have protected the results and data, the season was simply declared null and void, effectively removing any data from the history books. The club believe that whilst the league showed pace and decisiveness, it was perhaps too binary as it did not differentiate between stopping the season and protecting the data.
Had the data from the 2019/20 season been combined with data from this latest 2020/21 season we played a total of 42 games, effectively one whole season, secured 92 points and an average 2.19 points per game, the highest of any team in the country at Step 3, finishing both part seasons on top.
The club is pleased to see some learnings by the league and the FA to curtail the 2020/21 season rather than declare it null and void, giving them greater flexibility with an option to use the data in the future should the 2021/22 season be disrupted.
This is a frustration shared throughout the club as our Women’s team had mathematically won their league by the time the 2019/20 season again was declared null and void.
The club want to thank all their supporters and sponsors for their patience throughout this period. We wrote to season ticket holders at the weekend to inform them that they will be able to roll over their 2020/21 season tickets into next season. This has been incredibly well received and indeed some season ticket holders have generously donated their investment, with the intention of buying new season tickets next season.
Like most clubs in the football pyramid, we all face some financial and operational challenges as we navigate through lockdown into and out of the new season. However, we wish to reassure our supporters, sponsors and volunteers that we are determined to continue our progress and pick up from where we left off. During the past 12 months, through the lockdowns we have worked hard to future proof the club. First and foremost, we have extended the contract of our first team manager and club head coach Adam Hinshelwood for a further 3 years, which should be interpreted in no other way than a huge statement of intent. In addition, we have welcomed very experienced people onto our management team to build our commercial proposition and strengthen our day-to-day operational management of the football club.
Furthermore, there has been a huge programme of change at the Crucial Environmental Stadium over the past 12 months, ensuring our stadium is fit for purpose to operate in the National League structure. The works include a brand new, FIFA certified, all weather pitch, a new LED floodlight system and redevelopment of the North East corner with new spectator facilities, turnstiles and crowd segregation capability. All this has been funded from grant applications and our fantastic community crowd funder campaign last summer.
There is no doubt in this respect, we will be in a far better place coming out of lockdown than we were going into the first lockdown a year ago and we very much look forward to welcoming our supporters, sponsors and volunteers back to the Crucial Environmental Stadium as soon as we can safely do so.