Knaresborough Town manager Paul Stansfield says curtailing non-league season was 'only option'

Knaresborough Town manager Paul Stansfield believes that curtailing the 2020/21 season for clubs at steps three to six of the non-league pyramid was the only viable option available to the Football Association (FA).
Knaresborough Town manager Paul Stansfield.Knaresborough Town manager Paul Stansfield.
Knaresborough Town manager Paul Stansfield.

The decision was taken earlier this week after 76 per cent of teams who play in these leagues indicated a preference to abandon the current campaign if their remaining matches could not be played in front of supporters before April 1.

This means that, unlike the 2019/20 season - which was declared null and void - results from 2020/21 will remain on-the-record with tables as they are to be taken as final standings.

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Knaresborough play their football in the Northern Counties East League (NCEL) Premier Division and had completed just nine of their scheduled 38 league fixtures when the campaign was suspended indefinitely in early January.

Knaresborough Town completed just nine of their scheduled 38 NCEL Premier Division fixtures for 2020/21.Knaresborough Town completed just nine of their scheduled 38 NCEL Premier Division fixtures for 2020/21.
Knaresborough Town completed just nine of their scheduled 38 NCEL Premier Division fixtures for 2020/21.

"We thought that this would be the decision, but until it's officially confirmed you're never certain what is going to happen," Stansfield said.

"It was the only option, really. There were no alternatives. We've been round the houses ourselves talking about different possibilities, about whether this or that could work, but every idea was flawed.

"You couldn't be deciding leagues on points-per-game ratio, for example. Some of the teams in our division have only played six or seven games.

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"I don't see that the FA had any choice. With the amount of games that were left to play there just wasn't enough time to finish the season.

"There's a lot to think about. You have to consider people's jobs, the cricket season, all kinds of things. It wouldn't have been fair to be asking lads to play three or four fixtures a week."

The NCEL season got underway in September - a month later than it normally begins - but, as has been the case throughout non-league football, was badly affected by a host of postponements due to Covid-19-related issues.

Even if a solution had been found that would have allowed clubs to somehow squeeze in all of their remaining fixtures, Stansfield is adamant that the idea of playing games behind closed doors was a complete non-starter.

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"Without crowds, without people through the gate and bar takings, our club and lots of other clubs can't survive," he added.

"We rely on that revenue to operate. We've basically just had to go into hibernation.

"It's not good what has happened to this season. It's not nice, but we've just got press re-set now and hopefully we can get back to normal this summer and try and pick up where we left off next season."

Of the nine league games that Knaresborough completed in 2020/21, they won two, drew one and lost six. They sit 18th in the 20-team division, but have played less matches than a number of the sides above them.