THE final whistle looks close to being blown on competitive action for hundreds of Rotherham's younger junior footballers.
The sheer backlog of matches, spring and summer holidays and the possibility of more players showing up for Covid-19 as a result of school testing all weigh against the Sheffield Junior League and its Girls equivalent being able to complete fixture lists by the new extended deadline at the end of June.
The Junior League, the biggest in the country, is canvassing its member clubs and wants their answers back by the weekend while the Girls League will decide its next move after a Zoom call with all its club secretaries today.
Ian Walker, secretary of Brinsworth Whitehill JFC, said: “The impression I got from the league is that with the younger age groups they are quite prepared to end the league season and if any if those want to play on then they can have friendlies.
“For a couple of the older age groups, the U15s and U16s, the thinking was that it doesn't create a good impression to null and void the season in what could be the last year these kids play junior football.
“Certainly, the managers of our U16s say they'd like to try and complete if possible because some of their lads had been at the club since being seven or eight years old and have gone all the way through.”
Some parents of young footballers have jumped the gun, assuming play will re-start from March 29 when the first relaxation of the country's third national lockdown is due to take place.
In reality, it will be two weeks later than that even if everything goes to plan because Easter falls on the first weekend of April, nudging any re-start back to April 11.
Ian added: “I had a Zoom meeting with all our managers last week and most of them are of the opinion that we are never going to finish the season even if it goes to the end of June because there are so many games to play. One or our teams, for instance, has only played two games out of 16 and most of the others are similar. The best one we've got is one that's played six out of 22.
“Even if we re-start on April 11 and play through to the end of June, there are bank holidays to factor in and playing so long into summer also doesn't give much time to prepare for next season.
“The league has to get entries in, everybody has to be affiliated and fixtures have to be drawn up.
“If they do play to the end of the June then it could be that the start of next season is seriously delayed.”
The return of children to school this week is another possible complicating factor.
Added Ian: “Testing in schools is good, I am glad they're doing it, but it could lead to a rise in positive cases and children having to self isolate which means they can't play football.
“It all depends what social distancing rules are put in place next and how 'real' things are going to be.”