FALMOUTH Town manager Andrew Westgarth has said he would null and void the football season if the decision was down to him.

The 2020/21 football season, like most competitive sports competitions in England, is currently suspended during the third national coronavirus lockdown.

It is the fourth significant disruption to what has been a season like no other, with the campaign starting a month late in September before pausing throughout November for the second national lockdown.

The return to action in December was blighted by poor weather, with just 19 games being played in the South West Peninsula League West before play was suspended again when Cornwall and Devon moved into Tier 3 of regional coronavirus restrictions on New Year’s Eve.

That turned into another national lockdown on January 4, and with most competitive sport likely to be shelved until the start of March at the earliest, the conversation, much like it did in March 2020, is moving towards determining how best to complete the season.

“If someone says to me now, ‘You don’t have to play a game of football or try anything, but you can start in August with no issues’, then I’d take that all day long,” Westgarth said.

“I think if we try and come back and get another false start, I think sometimes that can be just as damaging.”

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Knowing when the season is going to restart is one thing, but knowing how to settle the current campaign is another issue entirely.

The call for declaring the season null and void, much like the 2019/20 campaign was, is growing louder as the Football Association’s May 31 deadline for finishing the season inches closer, given that many teams have only played a handful of matches this season.

But others are hoping that the current season can be carried over to August and make it an extended 2020/22 campaign.

Other options include determining the league positions using points per game, or by playing a shortened competition once play is allowed to resume.

All non-league clubs have been invited by the FA to give their thoughts on how to resolve the current season by way of filling out a survey.

It is not known when these results will be made public now how much weighting the responses will have in the FA’s overall decision.

“You’re going to get people frustrated,” Westgarth said. “You’re going to get the top teams, obviously they’re going to be disappointed because they think they’re in a position to go up. Then you’ve got the bottom sides and they’ll probably be looking for a null and void.

“I think it is what it is and there’s nothing we can really do about it. I think the big question is do you null and void it or do you carry on next season?”

Falmouth Packet:

Falmouth Town manager Andrew Westgarth (right) celebrates after his side's FA Vase victory at home to Bishop's Cleeve in December. Picture: Cameron Weldon

But the Falmouth boss, whose side were fourth in the SWPL Premier West with two games in hand on leaders Mousehole before the season was suspended, admitted he would void the campaign if he was making the decision.

“I think there’s so many variables on both,” he said. “If you were to carry the league season over then the top sides would be happy with it.

“The bottom sides, take Godolphin [Atlantic] for argument’s sake, are they starting on minus one [as they are now]? If you’re a player there now, you could have all your team stuck there. It’s difficult to motivate and get players to a club who are struggling at the wrong end of the table.

“Mid-table sides will think, ‘What are we going to achieve this season?’ and the top sides will say, ‘Let’s get it on, we want to win the league’. I can see it and then I can also see a call for starting afresh.

“If it was me I think I’d probably start afresh. I think everyone knows where they stand then. It’s unfortunate to have two seasons like this but I just think starting afresh is probably the fairest way in the sense of you know where you are with it.

“It’ll probably protect clubs more. I just think it’ll be the best way to go.”

The SWPL recently confirmed that, in the event of no league games being played this season, provisional plans are being worked on, provided football can be legally resumed by March 31, to play cup competitions instead.

This could see the Cornwall FA completing the Cornwall Senior Cup, as well as the SWPL running its Walter C Parson League Cup and a new, one-off cup competition to provide some meaningful fixtures between now and the end of the season.

But Westgarth is sceptical of this idea, saying that it would only be worth doing if fans are allowed to attend games and if clubhouses are allowed to open without restrictions.

“It all depends on what the conditions are,” he said. “If we’re playing behind closed doors and the clubhouses are restricted, you’d think is it really worth it for the sake of playing one or two games?

“Do we come back with a mini pre-season so we’re playing friendlies beforehand? If it impacts any form of next season, is it worth it? I’d rather come back and have a clean start when everyone is Covid-free and the world’s a better place. I’d rather do that than try and dip our hand in and play a few cup games for the sake of it.”

Westgarth also spoke of his fear that several people are going to be lost to local football as a result of the pandemic.

The Town boss believes that the stop-start nature of the last 12 months, combined with the absence of supporters and clubhouses and the pressure on club officials, may lead to more people stepping away from the game.

“My biggest worry of all this is we’re going to lose so many people from football,” he said. “They’ll be put off and think, ‘What’s the point?’

“The 11-a-side game is probably in biggest need of numbers and volunteers and it needs to be protected. My worry is that we force it and rush it that people will just be put off and stay away.

“It puts unnecessary pressure on clubs and people. Some people might not want to be involved in the environment because of Covid and they’re worried about it and then they feel guilty that they’re letting people down because they’re part of a team. It is a very difficult, delicate situation.

“I’ve heard a few managers say let’s get back when it’s safe to do so, but I think we’ve got to come back 100 per cent safe, in the sense of [when we can] get all of the fans in and get all clubhouses opening, because the last thing we want is for them to go under.”