Gary Johnson blasts league decision

TORQUAY United manager Gary Johnson today blasted the National League over its handling of the coronavirus crisis.

The league announced yesterday that clubs had voted to ‘end the season immediately’.

Another decision will now have to be made to decide issues of promotion and relegation.

But a ‘very disappointed’ Johnson today told BBC Radio Devon that the whole affair had left the league’s integrity compromised. And he accused the league of destroying the hopes of clubs like the Gulls.

All 24 National League clubs were given a vote on whether the season should continue when it could, or be stopped now and start again afresh.

The league said there was a ‘clear majority of clubs in favour’ of the cancellation from the almost 90 per cent of responses returned. Options around the ‘sporting outcomes’ of the 2019-20 season – promotion and relegation – have still to be decided by a second vote.

Johnson has previously said he believes the National League should come more into line with the Football League, who have already declared that they intend to complete the season’s fixtures as soon as possible.

Speaking to the local radio station this morning, Johnson said: “It’s out of our hands now, but I think the integrity of our league is compromised.

“We understand social distancing, and we would only want to play if it was safe to play, but my argument is that we should have stuck with the Football League, and gone with their dates and timings.

“There could be a scenario where everything is OK by July, the EFL are playing and we’re not.”

He said that could lead to confusion over promotion and relegation issues. For instance, the bottom team in League Two would expect to be relegated to the National League, but the National League might not be in a position to promote a team in its place.

“The National League have taken our hope away, along with our players’ hopes and dreams of finishing the season,” said Johnson. “We should have started singing from the same hymn sheet as the rest of football.

“We should have finished the season whenever it came, then worried about the next season when it was safe to do so.”

Johnson also said he was due to meet Torquay United CEO George Edwards this week to make plans for the immediate future.

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