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Hellenic League clubs given voice but Holyport boss says it won't carry much weight

Hellenic League clubs have been given an opportunity to voice their opinion on how the league should look to conclude the season, and while Holyport boss Derek Sweetman is grateful for that chance, he doesn’t believe their views will carry too much weight in the grand scheme of things.

With the country having been placed in another lockdown and restrictions unlikely to be eased until early March, it seems certain that leagues from steps three and down will be declared null and void for a second season running. That’s what the Trident Leagues boards are minded to do and it seems the other divisions will fall in line with that, even after consultation.

However, Sweetman believes the Hellenic League Division 1 East season could be completed as normal if restrictions are eased in a couple of months and he’s calling on the league to display a little patience before making its final decision.

Port are currently third after nine matches, and had put themselves in contention for promotion to a newly-created Thames Valley League at step five once again. It seems likely their hopes of promotion will be dashed once again, however, if fixtures can’t be played out in full, Sweetman would be open to using a points-per-game calculation to determine placings, perhaps even taking the past two seasons’ results into account.

“As a club the Hellenic League has asked all clubs to submit their thoughts on how to get over this,” said Sweetman. “It’s a great opportunity for us to voice our opinion. We doubt it will carry too much weight in the grand scheme of it, but it will be good to know that if the season is declared null and void that we did as much as we could do.

“We’ve had conversations as a committee, and I think we’re all in agreement that we want the season to carry on so we can try and squeeze the games in. Our league isn’t the most populated in terms of teams so, it’s an easier argument for us to say that we could play three games a week come the end of the season. If you’re in the Premier Division and you’ve got 38 games still to play it’s not so easy because you wouldn’t want your players playing four or five times a week. It’s a difficult one and I don’t think there’s an easy answer.

“If it’s not possible to play, points-per-game seems to be favourable to voiding the season, because at least you’ve earned those points. I think it’s a fairer option. If you think of the clubs that have paid out a lot of money to run their squads. In the Premier Division it will be a big chunk of money paid out by some clubs just for the season to be null and void. Risborough Rangers have tried to put some money into it in our league and that money will be lost, they’ll have nothing to show for it. At least if you do points per game, irrespective of where you could have ended up, it’s where you are now, and I would also be in favour of spreading it over last season as well. You could take last season’s points-per-game, add them to this season’s, and over a longer period it should even out.”

Sweetman admits it’s far more important for the country to get a handle on COVID-19, and that non-league football pales into insignificance against people’s health and well-being, however, it will be frustrating for the club to potentially miss out on promotion in two consecutive seasons, especially when he feels most clubs were adhering to COVID protocols and putting matches on safely for players and supporters.

“Look the COVID situation is paramount,” he said. “But we’ve kind of come through this. There are non-league footballers up and down the country who have adhered to all the rules. Clubs have made big sacrifices and we were still getting people coming to watch us, even if it was only a handful of people. We’ve done everything we can do to play football. Just to null and void it would be a kick in the teeth after all the time, effort, commitment from people in their clubs. It will all be wasted, and you just think, what’s the point in going again next year if the same thing could happen again?

“We are effectively mothballed, even though the boys are still trying to keep themselves fit. They won’t just have a drink and get fat. They’ll still be doing whatever they can to keep themselves in some sort of shape.

“There are ways of making (this season) happen. People have just got to be sensible and realistic. If you’re asking teams to play Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, which I’ve done in the past. Players would rather do that at the end of a season than train twice a week and play on the Saturday. The players will want to play that football. By extending the season a little bit we could incorporate those games quite comfortably and still have a little break before we go back in say September.”

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