What Harrogate Town's National League rivals have said about decision to abandon regular season

The decision taken by National League member clubs to abandon the 2019/20 regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic has proved quite a talking point in recent days.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 8:40 am
Updated Monday, 27th April 2020, 9:23 am
Barrow manager Ian Evatt. Picture: Getty Images

Harrogate Town voted against the league board's recommendation to cancel all fixtures up until April 25, but were among a minority of teams to do so, and manager Simon Weaver said that he "can understand why other clubs have gone the other way."

He added: "We voted against the resolution and stayed consistent with what we have wanted all along - the opportunity to try and complete our fixtures at some point in the future.

"We wouldn’t have been the only club to have wanted the season to be extended as long as possible, but I think this was the expected outcome."

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But what are the thoughts of Town's National League rivals following Wednesday's announcement that all fixtures in England’s fifth and sixth tiers are to be scrapped ahead of a second member vote on how clubs wish to decide issues of promotion and relegation?

League leaders Barrow, who were four points ahead of second-placed Harrogate with nine matches left to play, described the outcome of the poll as "bittersweet".

Bluebirds manager Ian Evatt was however more concerned with what happens next.

He said: "It's bittersweet because we would have liked to have finished the job properly and had our fans lift the trophy.

"I think in life in general we should reward success, if people have performed in their jobs then they deserve to be rewarded. I think anything other than us being promoted, be it via a points-per-game system or just results as they stand, would be wrong.

"All you're doing then is rewarding the teams at the bottom of the league, who haven't performed, by voiding it all. I think that's wrong.

"Anything other than us being promoted would be very harsh."

Third-placed Notts County's board of directors hit out at the cancellation of the regular season.

"We would like to place on record our disappointment that the 2019/20 Vanarama National League season has been brought to a premature end," a statement released by the Magpies revealed.

"While we appreciate the views of other clubs and respect the overall outcome of this vote as a representation of opinion across the three divisions, our stance has always been that the National League should operate in tandem with the EFL due to the intrinsic link between the two leagues.

"We were therefore opposed to this vote being imposed – particularly as there was no clear indication of what the next steps would be in terms of deciding the conclusion of the season, including end-of-season play-offs and matters concerning promotion and relegation.

"We have written to the National League on a number of occasions over the past month with detailed, constructive and well-considered options for how we believe the league can be concluded, thus giving clubs involved at both ends of the table a fair opportunity to compete for what they deserve."

FC Halifax Town were another team who finished the season in the top six to criticise the decision, with boss Pete Wild particularly unhappy about the way that the National League have handled the situation.

Wild, who believes that a play-off format is the best way of finishing 2019/20, said: "As a club we are disappointed for various reasons.

"Everyone seems to be looking after their own agenda and I understand that. But it is just the way that they [the league] have gone about it.

"There has been very little communication and to come out with a conclusion to a vote which has not been concluded...It is disappointing.

"On the flip side, I can understand because as the weeks have gone on, it was becoming more and more apparent that the implications and practicalities of finishing the [regular] season are way beyond finances and the means of the leagues.

"But for it to come out in the media, seven minutes after was announced to the clubs, is wrong because I should be telling my players - not my players telling me after seeing something on social media.

"I found that very frustrating and with the way it has been communicated and handled."

By contrast, relegation-threatened AFC Fylde's owner David Haythornwaite welcomed the abandonment the regular season, insisting that it was the best thing for the league as a whole, even though his own club may suffer in the long run.

"I was quite surprised that it was announced so early, as they [the National League] had given themselves the deadline of May 7 to allow everybody to make a decision, but they decided to announce it early, which I think is really, really good," he said.

"I've sort of led the charge to get the season wound up, so I'm very pleased, but I also recognise that I could be almost like a turkey voting for Christmas, in that if they do go with points-per-game, then Fylde would be relegated.

"But, I've always said that I thought we should all make a decision that's best for the whole league and there's a lot of people in serious trouble at the moment with finances, so I'm glad it's happened and I look forward to seeing what the alternatives that we're going to get to vote on are.

"The main thing is that we are given options on various things. Wearing my selfish Fylde hat, I wouldn't be in favour of points-per-game.

"I think that in a situation where there's nine games still to go, it would be terribly unfair to decide relegation based on that [points-per-game records], although I think there's some merit in having promotion.

"It would be wrong to deny Barrow or Harrogate the chance of promotion, especially as there is a place available in the EFL because of Bury’s demise.

“We are in a crisis situation and so you can almost re-write the rules, so my suggestion would be for Barrow and Harrogate to play-off at a neutral ground for a place in the EFL, but with no other promotion or relegation.”

Even though his club was sat in a play-off position when 2019/20 was suspended, Boreham Wood chairman Danny Hunter appears to be of the opinion that determining how best to conclude the National League season is insignificant given the current global crisis.

"I don't see how you can have promotion, play-offs or relegation," he said.

"People have to accept things for how they are. Would we be a loser because we're in a play-off spot? Yeah, we would be. But there's a worldwide pandemic.

"The one thing I've managed to do is keep my staff safe, keep them paid and keep them on board. That's far more important than a play-off game.

"For me, I've got a duty of care to my players, my staff, my town and my community."