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Opinion: Cheltenham Town Ladies’ season must be voided amid disruption to next season preparations

Cheltenham Town Ladies’ Division One South West season has been significantly disrupted ever since a national coronavirus lockdown came into effect in January.

The league fixtures have been suspended indefinitely with ongoing confusion around what the outcome for the remainder of the season will be as fixtures will have to be rescheduled in time for the end of the campaign. 

Since their last cup fixture on December 13 against Exeter, the Robinesses have had nine matches postponed and this number will only increase as more weeks of uncertainty pass.

READ MORE: Cheltenham Town Ladies’ financial losses due to lockdown.

With the Women’s National League and regional division leagues also being suspended, the Ladies’ usual weekly training sessions have also not been allowed to take place in accordance with lockdown guidelines. 

As challenging as this may be for football clubs up and down the country, Cheltenham were involved in a similar situation last season which resulted in the abandonment of the 2019/20 campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Robinesses manager Tom Davies told Park Life Sport: “From a realistic point of view, it’s going to be very difficult to finish the complete season.”  

The fixtures congestion is not ideal for Davies and Co, as it could mean the 2021/22 season becomes delayed as a result, and therefore declaring the league as null and void could perhaps be a wiser decision. 

“I think I would be more open to it more this season than potentially last season,” Davies added.

“Last season was a lot more games played, the percentages on chances to change things and with the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship being decided on points per game, I felt that we could have even done that.” 

Although, due to the possibility that the remainder of the unfulfilled fixtures will overlap into the next campaign and interrupt pre-season preparations, we could see similar issues carry over into the new footballing season. 

This could mean that the 2021/22 campaign could start behind schedule and teams will find themselves with little time to rest and recharge ahead of the demanding season.

This would wholly unfair to the Women’s football pyramid and a rest period between the end of this season and the start of the next should be considered.

Subsequently, teams should be handed a rest period between the end of this season and the start of the next, which would therefore benefit clubs if the season was to be abandoned and started properly in a few months’ time when we the Government’s decision regarding non-league football becomes clearer.

“Ideally, we want seasons to be completed but if not this season, then we’ll do it next season with the hope that we can actually get a season completed,” Davies revealed.

The near future is far from predictable, but while safety is the priority for many, if the Government determines that women’s lower division football can return when it is safe to do so, Cheltenham Ladies will be ready to make their long-awaited comeback. 

As an independent club, the support of fans is vital to keep the club afloat but with the unforeseen situation, chairman Andrew Liddle admitted the club has seen “a real struggle financially over the last few months.”

However, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel in the coming months as a possible return of fans to local grounds may just be the perfect solution.

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