Barnsley’s ‘Three Point Plan’ To Save FAWNL Season

We have been closely following the campaign by a group of men’s and women’s clubs who are seeking to overturn the FA’s decision that FA Women’s National Leagues is to end with immediate effect with all results voided. Meaning no promotion or relegation of clubs between tiers three to seven.

The FA’s original decision, made just days after the country entered a Covid-19 lockdown, has yet to be ratified by the FA Council. If approved it would affect both men’s and women’s football clubs, all those playing below the men’s National League North and South, and all those playing below the Women’s Super League and Championship in the women’s football pyramid.

I initially had a lot of sympathy with the Football Association as there seemed to be much opposition to the decision and very little fair and practical suggestions on how to overcome the predicament of settling the season.

Barnsley have been actively involved in this campaign to complete this season and have proposed a Three Point Plan to save the seasons of hundreds of football clubs.

The proposal comes just days after a letter, signed by over one hundred football clubs, warned of legal action if the FA Council ratified a decision to end the 2019-2020 football season and expunge all results.

Barnsley Women’s Football Club’s proposal has been set out in its letter to the FA yesterday, stating that the club “hopes that the 2019/20 season will be resumed and concluded, as soon as it safe to do so, and believes that time should be taken to see whether the 2019/20 Season can be properly concluded.” However, with 70-80% of the affected Season already completed, the proposed Three Point Plan suggests a solution should completion of the Season not be considered feasible.

Barnsley Chairman, former Chairman of West Bromwich Albion, Paul Thompson said, “We know that there are more important things than football going on at the moment, but the decision now being made by the FA Council will affect hundreds of clubs, thousands of players, staff members, fans and the communities that these clubs serve. Thorough consideration must be given to the impact of voiding a season and expunging the results, taking into account what the affected clubs are saying.

“Our Three Point Plan is a fair and equitable Plan, which can be applied consistently across the whole of the Football Pyramid, where Leagues are unable to complete the 2019/20 Season. If the FA can adopt this Three Point Plan, which is fair and equitable to all Clubs, both Men’s Clubs and Women’s Clubs, The FA will gain huge respect and will bring the whole of the Football family back together and on side.”

I initially supported the FA’s decision as I saw no fair way to conclude the season, but after speaking to people involved in the game I have come round to the idea that the priority must be to finish the season when possible. If this is the outcome of the top leagues in the United Kingdom then this must be mirrored throughout the leagues where possible. I appreciate that this causes an administrative headache but many of these issues are not insurmountable.

Barnsley will join hundreds of other clubs in awaiting the FA Council’s final decision, which is expected shortly.

Photos: Dean Bradford

The content of the Three Point Plan proposed to the FA is as follows:

Point One – League Tables

If the 2019/20 Season cannot be completed, the most sensible way to proceed is to record all un-played fixtures as a 0-0 Draw. This will leave the Final League Tables in the same order as using a Points Per Game system, but will provide complete League Tables for the record books, and will record the fact that the Leagues did take place, together with the relative progress which each Club made during the Season. This is a fair and equitable way to complete the results and the League Tables, whereas expunging the results is not.

Point Two – Promotion

Promotion should then take place in the normal manner, based on the League Tables established in Point One above. This is fair to the Clubs who were in promotion positions at the time that the Season was suspended due to Covid-19. Where playoffs are involved, playoff matches should take place as soon as it is safe to do so.

Point Three – Relegation

No relegation should take place. This is fair to those Clubs who were in a relegation position, but who believe that they would have escaped relegation if the Season had not been suspended. If there is promotion but no relegation, most Leagues will remain the same size. Where a League’s size changes as a result of promotion but no relegation, the size of the League can then be re-adjusted at the end of the 2020/21 Season by adjusting the relegation rules for the 2020/21 Season.

While it won’t please all clubs I think that there is merit in this plan as it rewards clubs on the cusp of promotion and doesn’t punish clubs who may yet escape relegation.