Coronavirus: Decision to suspend National League season a 'no-brainer ', say Harrogate Town

The National League's decision to suspend competition until at least April 3 has been welcomed by title-chasing Harrogate Town.

Monday, 16th March 2020, 7:46 pm
Updated Monday, 16th March 2020, 7:46 pm
Harrogate Town's season has been temporarily suspended. Picture: Matt Kirkham

With the coronavirus crisis worsening by the hour, the league belatedly opted to follow the lead of the Premier League and English Football League at a board meeting on Monday.

Six fixtures were completed in the fifth tier on Saturday, despite all of the divisions above them in the pyramid having cancelled their full schedule.

Town's Friday night clash at Solihull Moors was postponed at their own request due to two players and two coaches placing themelves into self-isolation having shown signs of illness, and the club has welcomed the move to temporarily put the season on hold.

"It's the right decision, a decision that had to be made," said Harrogate's managing director Garry Plant.

"For me, it's a no-brainer. Obviously, it's not good timing given the position we are in [second in the National League], however the country is faced by a situation like nothing we have ever seen before.

"People's health must come first."

Town manager Simon Weaver echoed Plant's sentiments, adding that he felt that it was important that football didn't do anything that exacerbated an already difficult situation.

"This is the right course of action, the only course of action," he said.

"You've got to look after the players, but it's not just about them. All of these lads have families and relatives who they go home to.

"In our squad, there are a number of lads with grandparents in their 80s, and these are the people who are really at risk.

"We don't want football to be responsible to making the situation with coronavirus worse."

Regarding the National League's delay in suspending competition, Weaver revealed that he was surprised that any fixtures had gone ahead at the weekend.

"I don't think it was of any real benefit to have played those games on Saturday," he added.

"It was pretty surprising to see them go ahead, and like I say, I hope there is no detrimental effect.

"I don't think many players would have been able to take part in those games at the weekend with the right mindset.

"If you can't shake hands, how can you play football, a contact sport, where you're coming up against other people in such close proximity?"

A statement released by the National League on Monday evening said: 'At its Board Meeting on Friday, the National League decided to use its best endeavours to keep its season going in the face of unprecedented adversity.

'However, with the current coronavirus (COVID-19) reaching global pandemic levels it has to accept that the situation is now out of its own control.

'In the knowledge of the government measures now announced including not to support sporting events with emergency services workers it is clearly not practical for its fixtures to be fulfilled in the immediate future.

'In those circumstances and in line with The Football Association and the Professional Game, at a Board Meeting today, The National League has decided that its competition is now suspended until at least 3rd April 2020.

'The National League will continue to monitor the situation, but trusts that its loyal clubs, fans, players, officials, staff, volunteers and sponsors will accept that it has had no other choice but to reach this decision.

'It wishes everybody connected with the competition and indeed the whole country a safe passage through these turbulent times.'

Meanwhile, Town's FA Trophy semi-final ties against Notts County on March 21 and 28 have also been postponed.