Scrapping competitions below Premier League, EFL and National League not the answer - Sue Smith

Elite football will continue through the latest Coronavirus lockdown but that still leaves plenty of players whose season has been put on hold.

GAME OVER? Northern Premier League rivals Scarborough Athletic and FC United of Manchester, pictured, could see their season ended after league bosses recommended declaring the 2020-21 campaign null and void to the FA yesterday, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Tim Markland/PA

Whatever the level, I would urge football’s authorities to do what they can to get this season played.

I got on my high horse when I read teams could be knocked out of the Women’s FA Cup on the toss of a coin. Sides could go out of the men’s competition if Covid-19 stops them fulfilling their fixture before the next round takes place.

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Especially for a team that is the clear favourite to go through, that seems incredibly harsh. On top of the romance there is much-needed prize money for clubs who are not going to make it all the way to Wembley.

FALLING BEHIND: Harrogate Town’s fans have been among the few in Yorkshire to see their team in action this season, but have seen a number of games lost in recent weeks due to the weather. Picture Tony Johnson

My next thought was: ‘How else can you do it?’

There is so little space in the fixture list and the authorities clearly do not want a backlog of games, especially with a European Championships in the summer for the men, and an Olympics for the women.

There is the weather to consider, too, with Harrogate Town one of the teams to have games called off and abandoned because of frozen pitches.

I was once knocked out of a tournament with England Under-18s because a team-mate picked up a yellow card.

Derby County caretaker coach Wayne Rooney and assistant Liam Rosenior will be absent as the Rams field a team filled with Under-23s to fulfil their FA Cup fixture following a breakout of coronavirus at the club. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

We were on equal points and goal difference with Belgium, so it eventually came down to discipline.

We had one girl who picked up a booking, they had none.

I remember thinking it was so unfair, not just on the squad as a whole, but on my poor team-mate whose lapse cost us.

If it boiled down to ties being decided by the toss of a coin or the number of coronavirus cases in a squad, or delaying the final until next season, as happened with the Women’s and Scottish FA Cup finals in 2020, I would say the latter option is still has to be preferred route.

Even sending out youth teams, as Derby County are going to do today and Sheffield Wednesday might, is better. At least the younger boys get their chance.

It was quite bizarre covering the 2019-20 Women’s FA Cup final at the start of 2020-21, but it was the only real option.

For those not classed as elite footballers – men below Conference North/South level and women beneath the Championship – the season is on hold, although some leagues yesterday got together to recommend to the FA that their 2020-21 season should be declared null and void.

And while there will be calls to repeat what happened last season, I really hope this does not happen. For those players it will mean blocking the light out at the end of the tunnel.

Some of my friends play at grassroots level and to tell them the season is just going to be scrapped would be devastating.

If it means three games a week to get matches in, I am sure they will take it. It is not their job, just something they enjoy doing.

If the lockdown went on long enough to mean the season had to go into the summer it would cause a few problems but I am sure most would prefer that, having played so little over the winter. I do not think many will be too bothered if there is little or no break before 2021-22, not when they train part-time for a couple of hours a week without the intensity of the professionals.

I do not want to play down what they do, just remember they are doing it for love.

As for those at the top, I cannot see a two-week “circuit-breaker” doing any good because in most cases that will only mean three or four days off before they train for the next match. The solution would be for players to go into 24-7 bubbles in hotels and that is no life, even for professionals.

It is best to keep going for as long as they can, but players must remain professional.

If I was in a dressing room at the moment I would be fuming with the behaviour of some of my team-mates over New Year. We saw photographs of men’s players at parties, and women going to Dubai on holiday and coming back with the virus.

If I was doing everything I was supposed to – like the fans at home are – and I had team-mates putting myself and my family at risk, I would say there is no way they should be part of the squad.

Manchester Thunder netball team suspended a player who was at a New Year’s Eve party, and football should do the same. So many players are doing the right thing, making big sacrifices, and yet we end up talking about the handful who do not.

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