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Heartache for March but relief for Wisbech and Saints as season declared null and void

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The Football Association has made the decision that the 2019/20 season is null and void – bringing relief to two of the area’s clubs but heartache to another.

March Town were in the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League division one north promotion places when coronavirus saw all football halted.

Meanwhile, Wisbech St Mary were bottom of the same league and Wisbech Town were last place in the BetVictor Northern Premier League south east division.

March manager Arran Duke (32465169)
March manager Arran Duke (32465169)

But now all results have been scrapped, all tables mean nothing and the three teams must prepare for a longer than usual break between seasons.

This decision also applies to teams in the Peterborough and Cambridgeshire County Leagues.

March were also in two cup finals which will never be played. Manager Arran Duke said: “I know there’s bigger things than football going on but I’m gutted and the decision will still hurt when the crisis has got better. I am disappointed but in the coming weeks we have got to think about going forwards.”

Wisbech manager Brett Whaley (32465203)
Wisbech manager Brett Whaley (32465203)

Wisbech boss Brett Whaley added: “It was such a hard decision for the FA to make and they had to make it now to stop teams at higher levels than us, who are still paying players on contracts, from going bust.

“If they had done it on points per game, then the bottom side in our division was meant to play a top Step 5 team in a play off. How could they have decided who won that?

“And then you have a team in another league who were 18th but, on a points per game decision, would have been relegated even though they were not in the relegation area.

“And if they did it as the leagues stand then it would not have been fair on teams near the bottom with games in hand. So you can see why they did what they did.”

Wisbech St mary manager Stuart Beckett (32465238)
Wisbech St mary manager Stuart Beckett (32465238)

The former March manager added: “I am extremely mindful though of what it means to clubs who were having great seasons and looking like they were going to get promoted. I feel gutted for them.

“Obviously it is the result we wanted but not the way we wanted to get it.We finished the season with an awful performance and at the time we thought there were still several games to put it right. And even then, if we had stayed bottom, we would have faced a play-off.”

Whaley revealed the club is planning a Sunday Under 18 team for the 2020/21 season as well as a reserve team playing, initially, in a local league.

He said: “We now have a long time to prepare for next season and make sure we get everything in place. We can look at the infrastructure of the clubs and get people in to coach the new teams. It will also be the club’s third season at Step 4 and a chance to try to establish it at this level.”

And Wisbech St Mary manager Stuart Beckett said: “We have got to take the positives from it but equally feel sorry for teams like March who were having a brilliant season and had it taken away from them.

“I personally think it should have been decided on a points average even though we were bottom of the table and had played more games than everyone else – there is no getting away from that.

“But we are staying up so now we have extra time to chat to players over the phone and plan for next season.

“We’ll probably lose some players and I think 75% of the squad will be happy to stay – but we know we need bodies in. We need quality and we need a great team spirit.

“I need to bring the right players in and that’s what I will aim to do.”

A statement from the FA said: “These steps take into account the financial impact during this uncertain period, while considering the fairest method on how the sporting outcomes for the season will be decided with the integrity of the leagues in mind.

“The National League System (NLS) was able to build a consensus among their leagues and, where possible, aimed to create a consistent approach across all leagues, while taking into account the unique characteristics of each individual league.

“As a result, The FA and NLS steps three to six have reached a consensus that their 2019-20 season will now be brought to an end and all results will be expunged.

“This will mean no promotion or relegation of clubs between NLS steps three to six, and no promotion to NLS step two.

“These decisions will also apply to the leagues and clubs who play at NLS step seven.

“We will continue to assist and support the National League (NLS steps one and two) to determine the outcome of its 2019-20 season as quickly as possible.

“The planned implementation of the restructure of the NLS will also now be deferred until the start of the 2021-22 season.

“Furthermore, we can now confirm that we have decided that all grassroots football is concluded for the 2019-20 season.”

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