Clubs in Bradford and beyond embrace a full football season


AFTER more than two years of chaos, the football season is almost over and we can celebrate a year of relative normality.

With the coronavirus pandemic hitting Britain with a vengeance from March 2020, we soon realized how much we had missed a good old relegation battle or promotion drop.

All of a sudden we had the horrors of no football for months, and even after he returned there were no fans, tight crowds, groups of six and sanitized equipment.

All were scenarios we could never have imagined, and all sucked a level of enjoyment out of the game, whether you’re an avid fan or an avid gamer.

I did an in-depth report in September 2020 on the impact of coronavirus on clubs, and it laid bare the effect the virus had on the day-to-day operations of a football club.

Thackley chairman Ben Oliver said his club were on a solid financial footing but he feared for others including Guiseley who even had to fund last season when they had games and expenses but no supporting income.

But even the Dennyboys were affected, with Oliver admitting at the time: “One of the things for us as a club are the rules about clubs and bars.

“We’ve just refurbished ours and it was a big investment. We were open on Tuesday (for a home game with Albion Sports) and had all the social distancing guidelines in place and sanitizer available.

“But the rules have changed since that game and now it’s table service only.

“It reduces the maximum clubhouse occupancy, so again it just eats into those potential revenue streams that we already have all the time.

“We still can’t hold receptions there either. Someone wants to hold a wedding reception there next summer, but we don’t know if it will be possible.

“We want to do some marketing and we have a potentially very big interest in a launch event for the clubhouse, but we can’t roll it out because we can’t encourage a gathering of this size.

“So it’s difficult, and it’s something that we monitor on a daily basis, sometimes hourly. Everyone keeps an eye on the news, all the announcements, and that’s the only thing we can do.”

Campion co-manager Lee Ashforth spoke about the issues from a playing perspective at the time, saying: “We just have to make sure we do what we can as a management team, by making sure players are covering Covid rules, traveling in cars themselves, not going to games with each other, etc.

“Everything else will be dealt with by the government and the FA in the best way they see fit and we just have to accept those guidelines.

“As a nation we all want to play football, children want to play football, but the safety of people must be paramount.

“It ranges from grassroots football to the Premier League and international football. We have to do what is good for the country, for its safety and the safety of the people who live here.

“Football will always come second in my opinion. Although we can play fantastic football, but if the decision is made where we can’t, we will have to deal with that.”

Bradford (Park Avenue) was fined for not playing games he couldn’t afford to play, much to his chagrin, seasons were on hiatus and everything seemed like an endless nightmare.

But with the restrictions pretty much lifted for the whole of 2021-22, there have been some dramatic moments to remind us what football is all about.

Liversedge looked set for promotion in 2019-20, but the coronavirus cut that season short, to the fury of boss Jonathan Rimmington.

They played just seven games in 2020-21, winning them all, but their brilliant record over two successive Northern County East League Premier Division campaigns meant they were promoted to the Northern Premier League East Division on a formula of points per game anyway.

And they thrived there, winning a titanic virtual title clincher 2-0 against Marske United on Easter Saturday to secure a second promotion in a row.

Tonight they have the chance to secure a famous brace when they take on Brighouse Town in the West Riding County Cup Final.

Avenue looked to be in danger of relegation to National League North at the start of the year, but some defensive displays and counter-attacking brilliance helped them stay afloat.

But their rivals Guiseley (35 points) and Farsley Celtic (37 points) are engaged in a dramatic battle downstairs with AFC Telford United (36).

Kaine Felix’s Monday winner kept Guiseley alive. Photo: Alex Daniel.

Only one will fall, tomorrow being the mother of all shootouts to stay in the league.

Elsewhere, Eccleshill United missed out on promotion via a penalty shootout in the play-off, Steeton achieved their best league result in the football pyramid and Ilkley Town remained in place in their first season in semi-professional play.

Football is a great example of not realizing what you have until it’s gone. It was great to get it back.


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