09:00AM, Sunday 31 May 2020
Slough Town will await further guidance from the Government and FA before contemplating a return to training, with co-boss Neil Baker admitting this week ‘there’s still loads to sort out’ before clubs can consider bringing players back in.
The prospect of the Rebels taking part in end-of-season play-off matches moved a step closer this week, with the FA granting the National League an extension to the season to potentially play them. However, while Baker accepts the club could probably put on one or two matches behind closed doors in an attempt to gain promotion, he’s very uncertain about the future of non-league football in general.
This week he and co-manager Jon Underwood should have been preparing to go away on their respective holidays, with the season concluded, players signed up and deals in place for new signings ahead of a very definite return date for pre-season. All of that is now up in the air and Baker admits there’s a minefield of issues to be resolved – and further improvements in the coronavirus infection rate needed – before clubs can consider getting back to normal.
“I think from a football point of view there is still loads to sort out,” said Baker. “The Premier League, EFL, it all has a knock on effect for football at our level. Until the Government turns around and says that mass gatherings are okay, nothing will get going for us.
“If they limit clubs to having 500 people in a ground, that’s another conversation the National League has to have with clubs, because that would be a real problem for many clubs.
“It would have a knock-on effect on income and there will be clubs that can’t survive on that, or won’t be able to get started again on that. There’s so much to sort out, I’m not anticipating us being back anytime soon.
“Until there’s more guidance from the Government it’s a waiting game.”
Lockdown restrictions were relaxed a little last week, enabling one-to-one coaching in a socially distanced manner, however, non league football is still many weeks, potentially months, away from returning to full contact training and matches in front of crowds. Slough are waiting for further guidance from Government as to how to proceed on this front, but Baker has been surprised to see some clubs trying to do transfer business when little is yet known about what next season will look like.
“For me it’s a bit surprising when you see clubs are doing that,” he said.
“Because you’re working on something that you don’t know. We need to know exactly how the season is going to look before we can start planning for it, and it’s the same from a budgeting point of view.
“How can you budget for what might be only half a season?
“At the moment we’re not preparing for that (training). We have a council-owned ground and we’ll try to adhere to everything we need to do when the time is right.
“There’s a chance things could be relaxed again this week and going forward it might make things easier for us to deal with. At the moment you’re not allowed any contact, and I can’t see that the play-offs would be played before July, so we’ve got a bit of time. It’s moving all the time. We’ll just wait and see what advice we get, we’re already a month behind where we would have been. By May 10/12 the play-offs would have been done and normally a week ago we’d have had the league allocations. That’s nowhere near being done. So that pushes everything back.
“You’ve got league AGMs, so many things that need to happen. We’d be sitting here done, myself and Unders, would be getting ready to go on our holidays, with players all signed, deals agreed, and we’re not in that position.
“We’re nowhere near that position.”
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