John Arlott was best known for his cricket broadcasting. However he also reported on football for the Guardian. Each winter Saturday he would be dispatched to a top First division match and would later confess to a little embarrassment when asking his colleagues for the latest Reading score. This Basingstoke Boy was a lifelong fan of the Biscuitmen and therefore a supporter of football in Berkshire.
I mention this as the hand wringing of some football supporters about the outcome of the current season has called to mind Arlott’s axiom that “We take life too lightly and sport too seriously.”
In this vein, I have consulted with industry specialists and devised the following strategy which I have entitled Football: The Way Forward.
The Current Season
The Premier League – all results to be decided by the Pools Panel. This suggestion came from Daniel Gray, esteemed writer on Football Culture. I was pleased to discover that despite the sad deaths of some members such as Gordon Banks, the panel still exists in the form of Ian Callaghan, David Sadler and Tony Green. As footballers of great renown in the 60s and 70s, I’m sure their collective wisdom will ensure each result is carefully considered for factors such as the seasonal state of the pitches and the heavy Easter schedule. Modern technology will come in handy here to link up the gentlemen for their conference, which can be televised live behind the paywall, summarised on Final Score then dissected by Match of the Day. Social media influencer Mirko Bolesan has even suggested this could be turned into the “feel-good movie of the summer. Travelling around England reconvening the Pools Panel to decide the conclusion of the season for one last job while the Dubious Goals Committee try and stop them.”
The Football League and National League – final positions to be decided on alphabetical order. This was proposed by Andy Lyons, the editor of When Saturday Comes, the half decent football magazine. This is a simple and efficient method. If this causes jubilation in the likes of Bolton and Chorley it will doubtless cause much wailing in York about it being unfair, to which Lyons has stated: “well life’s not fair”. For the avoidance of doubt appendages do not count, just the club name, so sorry AFC Wimbledon.
Andy discusses his proposal on the 11th WSC podcast which is available to the magazines Patreon supporters here.
Non League football step 3 and below – a programme to be produced for each outstanding fixture. A crack team of prominent groundhoppers will then be assembled to allocate points based on the quality of the issues. I did consider Tom Canning’s suggestion about deciding places on the quality of boardroom catering, although this would be irresponsible given the need for social distancing. Given the FA’s penchant for insisting on pointless numbers of seats at the lowest level of grounds it could also be done on this basis but ground shares would make this difficult.
- Given there is so much speculation about further lockdowns in the case of a resurgence of COVID 19 within the 18-month horizon considered to be a minimum to formulate a vaccine there should be no league football
- The County Cups must finish in August to ensure the County Cup Winners Cup goes ahead
- The only other domestic competition will be the FA Cup. There will be no qualifying competition, but every round up to the last 64 will be regionalised. Therefore all entries will go into the hat for the first round. Based on the current season’s number of 736 competing teams, I calculate this will require nine stages. To ensure parity, there will be no VAR. Penalty shootouts will be suspended in favour of unlimited replays (seconded – Editor)
- The Home Championship will return to provide a warm-up for Euro 2021
- Friendly matches may be played for the entertainment of the local populace.
- All matches available for live telecast
So there you have it. My proposal for getting us through this unexpected hiatus to organised soccer. In writing this I am indebted to the Victorians who taught me that the purpose of sport is to divert us from the harsh reality of day to day life and instead serve to infuriate and delight us in equal measure.
Steve Jinman is an occasional contributor to Football in Berkshire, and a Maidenhead United fan. You can find him on twitter here. You can listen to him discuss Alan Devonshire’s first spell as Magpies manager here.