Selby Town chairman Ralph Pearse has slammed the FA over their ratification of the decision to decide the National League seasons by points-per-game (PPG) ratios.
The National League voted to finish their Premier, North, South Divisions by PPG, despite their place as Steps 1 and 2 on the FA’s football pyramid and their supposed equal status with Step 3 to 7 leagues. The FA ratified that decision earlier this week ahead of the play-offs.
That has angered the Step 3 to 7 clubs whose promotion dreams were wiped out without consultation literally days after prime minister Boris Johnson ordered a UK-wide lockdown on March 23rd when the FA voted to expunge all their league records for 2019/20. NPL Premier Division leaders South Shields later failed in a legal bid to overturn the decision.
Selby were one of the clubs who were heartbroken by the null and void decision. Under manager Christian Fox, Selby were inches away from winning promotion back to the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division after eight years away.
Mr Pearse has previously said he was “sickened” when their promotion hopes were taken away and he says the ratification of points-per-game for the National League has deepened the wounds.
“It looks like they (the FA) are making it up as they go along,” Mr Pearse told Non League Yorkshire.
“I’ve said a lot in the past about inconsistent decision-making and I’m losing respect for them. They aren’t making themselves look very good in my opinion. They don’t seem to know what they are doing at times. They seem frightened of upsetting the Premier League and Football League.
“It is heartbreaking what happened (expunging). Look at South Shields and how many points clear they were. Vauxhall Motors had even won their league.
“The FA rushed the decision to null and void the season and they clearly didn’t think of the direction the Premier League, Football League and National League were going to go in.
“They say we’re under the umbrella of a pyramid system. The only umbrella we’re on the end of is a cocktail stick. According to the FA, we’re meant to be equal with the National League under this pyramid system. That’s clearly not the case because where’s the consistency (with the PPG)?
“You can’t say that all Step 1 to 7 leagues abide by the same rules and then let Steps 1 and 2 do the complete opposite to what happened to the Steps 3 to 7 leagues.
“It should have been sorted out fairly. The wounds of what happened will be still there in a few years. What’s happened (expunging) won’t be forgotten.
“Everybody will say ‘can you remember when it was null and void and there was no need for it because they should have done points-per-game’. It will be a talking point for a long time. I’m still fuming over it, even a few months on.”
The Non League game is now preparing for returning to action in the next eight weeks. September is a hoped date, but that is far from certain and the start-date could even be sooner.
All clubs face challenges to be Covid-secure ahead of the restart and Mr Pearse, who is hotly tipped for a major promotion from his previous match-day role of serving pints behind the club’s bar, says Selby are well into their planning.
“We have been discussing how we are going to manage games,” he said.
“At our last game we had over 400 people. I’m not saying we are going to get that every week, but we need to be prepared and we’re putting plans in place.
“The bar is getting refurbished and I won’t be ordering the beer anymore or cleaning the pumps. (Secretary) Tommy (Arkley) won’t be either and he won’t be standing next to the bitter pump anymore!
“The bar will open your eyes when you come in. The work done in there is unbelievable.
“But going back to the plans for managing games, it is likely I’ll be in the turnstile if Norman is unable to be. Tommy will be in the other turnstile and Dave Haddock will be at the gate letting season ticket holders in. Dave will also serve people who want to pay by card. The arrangements are just to get people in quicker.
“There’s also plans for the bar from an access point of view so there’s plenty of social-distancing. It is going to be awkward, but these things have to be done.”
Further obstacles lie in wait on the team front too. There is a real possibility that players will have to arrive changed ready for matches, with changing rooms and showers off limits.
Coaches and car-sharing remain unlikely to be allowed for the foreseeable future so all those points combined together produce a cocktail of logistical nightmares and Mr Pearse admits it is a concern.
“Players having to arrive changed is happening in cricket because they are having to turn up in their whites,” he said.
“It looks like we’re going to have to on a Thursday night when they train give the players their strips.
“Then we’re going to have 16 players, one manager, one assistant manager, one coach, one physio all travelling to away games on their own in their own cars.
“Some might not be able to drive so what do they do? Do we leave them at home?
“No offence to any clubs, but there are going to be problems getting to say Skegness. It is two hours away and we’re not going to be able to hire a coach and then there’s the issue of potentially no changing rooms. You can’t have players wearing muddy kit while travelling two hours to get home.
“It is not their fault, but Skegness shouldn’t be in the league anyway in my opinion. The NCEL management committee say they said no (to Skegness being put in the NCEL), but they say it was the FA who put them in. They should have stood firm and said no. The travelling is horrendous for Skegness. They have to do it nearly every week, we only have to go there once.
“In the short term there has got to be a sensible solution to the travelling situation because of the Government rules, but I don’t agree with the idea that we need local leagues of ten teams permanently. You expect a bit of travelling and midweek games at this level of football.”
Selby are back training and Fox has been retaining players and signing the odd new one. Mr Pearse has been impressed and he hopes the wrongs of the last few months will be righted.
“I think they’ve been training for once a month now, just once a week down at the ground,” he said.
“Obviously Casey Stewart is a big loss, there’s no getting away from that. We’re going to lose Josh Rogerson as well. He’s the best full-back in the league in my opinion. He’s joining the Army which a lot of people have known for some time.
“But Christian has made some very good signings. Simmo (Mark Simpson) who used to be at Garforth, I’ve never seen him play, but in training he looks a quality lad.
“(George)Bissett is a good signing and people like Liam Flanagan, Ryan Gothard, Dylan Parkin have all re-signed.
“Dylan has said he’s in it for the long haul and he said ‘Ralph, I want to see you in the Premier Division’. I want to see us there too. If it hadn’t been for null and void, we’d have been there by now.”
If you have enjoyed this interview, please consider making a donation to the not-for-profit organisation NLY Community Sport which provides sport for children and adults with disabilities and learning difficulties. CLICK HERE to visit the JustGiving page.
There is a video at the bottom of the page showing our work.
NLY Community Sport, run by James Grayson and Connor Rollinson, has always had combatting social isolation at the top of our objectives when running our Disability Football teams so when the green light to return is given, our work will play an important role in reintroducing our players, who have disabilities and learning difficulties, back into society.
We have six teams, a mixture of Junior and Adult teams – Nostell MW DFC, Pontefract Pirates, Selby Disability Football Club and the South Yorkshire Superheroes (Barnsley) – across Yorkshire.
We have enjoyed great success over the past three years. Several of our players have represented Mencap GB in Geneva, including Billy Hobson from Selby and Greg Smith, whose story is quite inspiring.
Like most organisations, we have been affected financially by the Coronavirus and we have incurred losses which we cannot recover. We have not been hit as badly as other organisations, but we do need raise £2000 to put us back at the level we were at in mid-March and enable us to make a difference once again to our players’ lives in the future, without having financial worries. As each day goes by, a substantial number of our players become further isolated so we need to be ‘ready for action’ when restrictions are lifted.
Any amount raised above £2000 will be put towards new projects (when the world returns to normal) designed to further benefit people with disabilities and learning difficulties. You can learn more about the organisation HERE and on our Facebook page.
Watch the video below to see highlights from our three years as an organisation. The video was produced for our players at the end of March to remind them of good memories from the last three years.