AFC Wimbledon receive a mixed reaction from some fans as the club was issuing a strong statement to the EFL over match postponements.
The League One outfit have told the English Football League they want clubs who postpone matches for Covid-related reasons to be “held to account”, after having back-to-back games called off.
Wimbledon had Sunday’s trip to Charlton and the visit of Portsmouth postponed because of opposition Covid cases.
Today we should have been playing Charlton in an exciting London derby everyone was looking forward to.
Eight days earlier we should have welcomed Portsmouth to The Cherry Red Records Stadium for another cracking League One encounter.
Instead both games were cancelled by the EFL because both visiting clubs were struck by Covid and couldn’t field enough first-team players.
The pandemic certainly takes no prisoners but ever since it struck we have taken exhaustive measures to protect our players and ensure we were always able to field a starting X1.
We have managed to do that on a fraction of the resources enjoyed by many of the teams in our division – and yet now we are left with cancelled games and fixture chaos. Which puts greater strain on our already depleted squad.
As a result of this we have sent a strongly-worded letter to the EFL spelling out how we feel – and calling on them, as our governing body, to take a much stronger stance going forward.
This is the letter we sent (sent by e-mail only):
10-12 West Cliff
Friday 24th December 2021
Re. Response to Postponed Fixtures
We are writing to openly express our disappointment over the recent spate of matches that member clubs have been unable to fulfil.
We also want to take this opportunity to call on the EFL to undertake its due processes and implement the strongest-possible measures to ensure that – where a club is able to fulfil a fixture – it does so.
Further, where it is found that a club was unable to fulfil a fixture, they must be held to account for all decisions which led to that position.
We would also like to advocate for the reintroduction of 5 substitutions per match. With a congested fixture calendar now a guarantee for all clubs, we would wish to have every tool available to us in order to manage our squad best.
At the point of writing, six of the 10 fixtures on EFL League One’s Boxing Day schedule cannot be fulfilled. On the weekend of the 18th December, six of the 12 scheduled matches did not go ahead, again because the matches could not be fulfilled.
AFC Wimbledon has one of the smallest playing budgets in the league and alongside this, one of the smallest first-team playing squads. The club is a London club, where Coronavirus has been most rife. A State of Emergency has been declared by the Mayor of London. Yet since the new Omicrom variant became prevalent, only 11 cases of Coronavirus have been recorded in our playing squad and first-team management (of which only three have been in our player and staff first-team bubble).
This is not by luck. This is down to hard work and spending resources our club ultimately does not have at its disposal.
This is the players sacrificing their ability to spend time with their loved ones. Christmas gatherings have been cancelled and everyone at the club has played their part; the players have to be truly commended for their commitment.
At significant cost, we have tested players twice weekly since the beginning of the season. In the weeks before the Red Zone protocols were brought into effect, we upped this to three tests per week.
We then moved to Red Zone protocols with daily testing in the week before the EFL’s announcement of such measures.
The club has isolated individuals and chosen not to select players for match-day squads. We have taken some very difficult decisions to manage our squad, which most likely led to a loss of on-field competitiveness.
Training has been impacted by the immediate removal or our U23 and loan players from our training group (due to the likelihood of exposure to Covid-19 at their non-league loan clubs).
If we can make all this work – on such limited resources – then so should the rest.
AFC Wimbledon understands that we are not alone in undertaking these measures and acknowledges some clubs may well have gone further.
However, we can’t help feeling the preventative measures taken by the club ultimately cost us a competitive edge on the pitch earlier in the season. Yet now, when our measures are truly coming into their own, we have been hit financially with the postponement of our two-largest revenued fixtures of the season.
Whilst acknowledging that two further dates have been created in the fixture list (with the removal of Emirates FA Cup Replay dates in Rounds 3 and 4), no team would enter this competition with the hope of getting a replay.
You play to win first time around, thus giving entrance into the next round and alleviating potential fixture congestion. We will now be forced into playing these matches, at a rapid turnaround, which will have a serious effect on the players’ physical and mental welfare.
It just doesn’t sit right that, having gone above and beyond our means to ensure matches can be fulfilled, we will now be at a disadvantage – trying to navigate a very congested second half of the season with a small squad.
Meanwhile, clubs with larger squads will have the upper hand, having been provided the opportunity to take a more relaxed approach knowing there will be no penalties for conduct that sits outside of the protocols.
Chief Executive Officer
– STATEMENT ENDS –
As mentioned, AFC Wimbledon receive a mixed reaction after issuing a strong statement to the EFL…
@crewealex7: Seconded from your friends at #CreweAlex! Not a case of these clubs not being able to field a side, more a case they’re not happy with the side they’d have to field. If you don’t trust your own kids – improve your recruitment/coaching. Yes, that’s you #wafc and #Gills 🏃 scared
@WombleMotivtion: Great statement. The likes of Pompey and Charlton cheating the system. The EFL needs to stand up and take appropriate action.
@chewy63a: Hear, hear! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 Shame on you, Portsmouth & Charlton (and others). I don’t believe you couldn’t find 14 fit players registered to your club to field. Fulfilling your fixtures is a fundamental requirement of the League: If you can’t do so, a 0-3 defeat is awarded by default.
@aftncanada: Very well said. It’s become farcical. It should be if you can’t field a team you forfeit the fixture.
@kevebbs: I don’t think a club that votes to end an entire season early to save itself from relegation gets to occupy the moral high ground on this one.
@SteveA2013: And the cancellations mean that these wealthier clubs can now go into the transfer market next week to strengthen their squads so they are stronger for the games when rescheduled
@marcsm08: Robbo not only giving us fight on the pitch but off it to what this man has done for our club is amazing what a legend
@DonWindlesham: Well done to the club! 👏 Fed up of being punished for making sacrifices and doing the right thing. I wonder how many of the matches would still have been postponed if the clubs unable to fulfill the fixtures forfeited the match 3-0? 🤔💙💛
@wombelle: I love this, just hope we dont ever need to cancel a game with covid now though. That said, love this stance and hope it gets a proper response
@prentonpete: Couldn’t wait to bin it in 19/20 when there was a chance of going down (stood with MK aswell) now giving it large from some deluded high ground. 🙄
@edwardbristow: Well said! You bloody tell ‘em
@stivesposh: Similar situation to @theposh smallest budget in respective leagues and getting the shit end of the stick whilst ‘bigger’ clubs with bigger budgets calling games off left right and centre.
@KarlosSUFC: Very well written and well done on running your club professionally. Pity that the #EFL won’t take any notice
@benridley10: I kind of agree with this. Wednesday have cancelled the last 2 games and we have about 30 players so surely we could put some kind of team out. We’ve managed to field sides without defenders this season. Don’t see how we can’t get some some of side out
@BillyRodaway: Stop moaning, you voted to stop playing altogether two seasons ago. Time for Wimbledon to do as they’re told by the EFL.
@tomfiler: Ohhhh, nowww you want to play football??
@curranhung: Well written, well argued statement. One would hope that as a result the EFL will “undertake its due processes and implement the strongest-possible measures to ensure that – where a club is able to fulfil a fixture – it does so”. But it won’t do anything of the sort.
@Charlton_Not606: A small Club more interested in the gate receipts from visiting Clubs like #cafc and #pompey than the safety of players. Anybody accusing Johnnie Jackson of being a party to covid cheating just has no knowledge of the man!
@Mark_cobbler: Finally a club saying it how it is. All these cancelled games are just a farce when some teams have plenty of players available
@DaveMcKFlit: Well said guys! There have been some very convenient postponements lately. For instance, you have to wonder how Hull went from “a couple” of cases to 13 in 3 days if any sort of protection was actually taking place
@djm0466: This totally needs sorting out fast, but asking for a tougher stance “going forward” means if your squad is struck down next week, are you going to be happy to forfeit the games? Any actions should be retrospective for those teams who asked for cancellations. @EFL @EFL_Comms
@NicolaWallITFC: Completely agree!! @IpswichTown have done everything possible to ensure their players and staff have been protected, so have been able to have a full squad available. Gillinghams postponing of games is a joke with other clubs doing the same.
What a fucking spectacular miss of the point.
If these clubs had shown better care and compassion to their players, like Wimbledon have, most if not all wouldn’t have even caught it.
— Alan McAlanBlade ⚔️ (@AlanGrinch) December 26, 2021
This you? https://t.co/oFcaXLEGEH
— Southern SWA (@SouthernSWA1) December 26, 2021
2/2 then vaccinated to prevent them having to isolate). That’s either not true, or it would suggest that the club has massively failed in following basic protocols that are in place to prevent such outbreaks and ensure that these postponements don’t occur
— Henry Robertshaw (@henryrobertshaw) December 26, 2021
… the fixture to the base family plans off it as 3 fixtures around Christmas means 3 days taken up so work around that and then those plans have to be changed last minute . Games should be postponed only if less than 16 people on the first team can play weather it be injuries
— lucy💙 (@lucy0cc) December 26, 2021