Coronavirus: Holwell Sports boss doubtful UCL season will finish

Grassroots clubs and leagues face an uncertain future as sport went into lockdown to try and slow the spread of coronavirus.
Rugby swiftly followed football's example on Tuesday by suspending all professional and grassroots activity EMN-200318-120841002Rugby swiftly followed football's example on Tuesday by suspending all professional and grassroots activity EMN-200318-120841002
Rugby swiftly followed football's example on Tuesday by suspending all professional and grassroots activity EMN-200318-120841002

In a rapidly evolving situation, the Premier League and English Football League became the first major sporting governing body in England to suspend their seasons on Friday.

Non-league football, together with rugby and hockey leagues carried on over the weekend, but the picture changed dramatically from Monday.

The United Counties League, of which Melton Town and Holwell Sports are members, initially announced that midweek games would go ahead at the discretion of the clubs, but later that day joined others in postponing all matches for the foreseeable future.

The unprecedented scene has thrown up many more questions than answers up and down the country, particularly in terms of the domestic 2019/20 football season and whether it can be completed.

At a local level, Melton Town and Holwell had already been heavily impacted by weeks of weather-enforced postponements before the latest blow.

Both already faced the prospect of two or three games per week in a race against time to complete their seasons.

Melton Town have a big chance of claiming one of four promotion places in Division One, sitting third with 12 games still outstanding, but coronavirus has turned a strong possibility of promotion into an uncertain one.

Neil Miller, whose Holwell side are just a couple of places and points below qualifying for next season’s FA Cup, believes the chances of finishing the season look slim.

“Do I envisage us getting in our 11 games – the answer is probably no,” he said.

“It’s possible the season is finished - that’s just being realistic.”

“If I was being hopeful, the league may come up with some formula that says we all play 30 games, but the welfare and health of people comes first.”

He was due to discuss the options for training with the club’s committee last night.

“Football clubs aren’t just run on 11 players and the manager,” he added.

“There is the promotional side, the matchday programmes, the people in the tea hut, those on the gate, and often at clubs it is the older generation that are involved in those roles.

“When you look at the whole structure, it’s more concerning.”

The RFU which governs English rugby, and the English Hockey Association both followed suit on Tuesday, as all grassroots leagues in Melton - from darts to dominoes - postponed matches for the foreseeable future.

A host of spring events have also fallen foul of the ongoing crisis, including the Belvoir Half Marathon, Frisby Fun Run, and biggest of all, the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic, which had been scheduled for Sunday, April 26.

With many of us looking for hope and good news amid the uncertainty, Holwell Sports have asked players and volunteers to donate essential items which Miler and club captain Ian Bitmead will this week distribute to two Melton food banks.

“We want to make sure that we are doing our bit and giving back to the community because the community has been really good to us this season,” Miller added.

* See next week’s Melton Times for latest updates and reaction.