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“Unluckiest club in the history of football” – Gloucester City co-chairman Alex Petheram on season null-and-void verdict

Despite Gloucester City being sat top of the National League North for the majority of the season, the club were having to constantly look over the shoulder – not for other teams on their tail for the title – but for the worldwide pandemic which eventually halted what was a great season for the Gloucestershire club.

After the decision was made in February to null-and-void both the National League North and South due to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak in the UK, it was no surprise that Gloucester City took legal action against the decision in an attempt to allow promotion and relegation in step two of the football pyramid.

In the end, an idea for a mini-league was proposed to the FA which would see promotion and relegation still go ahead with both the National League North and South, with Gloucester City co-chairman Alex Petheram even offering to host the finals at New Meadow Park free of charge. Unfortunately after weeks of waiting for Gloucester, it was denied.

Petheram played a big part in the proposal and was displeased to see it get rejected.

“We always said that we weren’t going to get into any legal fallouts or fights with the FA once they’ve made their decision, so we wanted to make sure first and foremost that we could stop the initial ratification from happening, which we did,” said Petheram.

“Then it was a case of gaining 18 clubs to come out with a proposal, which in simple terms was a new North and South combined league around points per game to give everyone a league table start, and that would have put all the clubs in a Formula One-style grid with the 18 games to play, or however many teams needed to give us a straight shoot out until the end of the season.

“We ended up with, in my humble opinion, not enough weeks left to conclude the season, due to the time taken by the league to bring it to any form of closure. So it was always going to be a race against time to get any new format approved and playing football again.

“You have 10 or so games to go in the EFL, we would’ve had a minimum of 18 to play in our little competition. So yeah, it was always going to be tough.”

The season was on course to be a success for Gloucester, with the Tigers sat five points clear at the top of the league. Despite the disappointing finish to the season for Gloucester, Petheram stresses that his side must move forward and focus on the upcoming campaign.

“We can’t dwell upon something that’s happened in the past, now we need to move forward as a club. We’re obviously bitterly disappointed because being top of the table, we had high hopes for the season and we were showing everyone that we could match our ambitions with our performances, so we were bitterly disappointed, but we mustn’t dwell on what’s happened and we need to move forward.

“For us now, it’s all about next season. Paul Groves is already starting to look at his staff and his players, but for us, there won’t be too many player additions until May, for the simple reason that football contracts normally expire the first Saturday in May or the first week in June, depending on how the contracts are written, so I can’t imagine that there would be too much more movement football contract wise.

Despite the title charge made by Gloucester this season, Petheram believes his side will have a different ambition for next season due to the financial impact from Covid-19 on the Tigers, and he hopes that his side will be able to have a bit more luck on their side come next season.

“I think we’ve signed nine for next season already, that’s obviously a good start for us.  We’re very much all looking forward to next year.”

“Our goal is never to win the title, that’s a little bit arrogant for a club of our size and stature,” he said.

“Our target will be the same as it started off this year, don’t go down, don’t go bust, and once we’ve ticked those two objectives then we’ll see how we can pan out during the season, but we didn’t set out this year to win the title, we set out this year with the same philosophy.

“Step one is to make sure that we’re financially safe, that we don’t go bust, and the other step is to make sure that we’re in a good position on the field so we don’t go down, and anything after that’s a bonus. If we can push towards the top again, that would be great.

“Hopefully we can have some better times at Gloucester City. It does feel like there’s always everything’s against us in the world, and it feels is that any time anything is going well, something comes around the corner. It could be a flood, a worldwide pandemic, or the null-and-void, but it does feel that we are possibly the most unlucky club in the history of the game.”

After a recently becoming the joint-owner of the city’s basketball team, Gloucester Knights, Petheram has taken the opportunity of no football as a chance to develop his new team.

“The only positive for me with no football now is this gives me a chance to spend some quality time on the newly formed Gloucester City Knights, we’ve really exciting developments on the horizon, I can’t say a lot yet, but it will be very exciting times for the City.”

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