Should Blair still be in the Cup?
Should Blair still be in the Cup?

In the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, Kevin Watson’s Cray Valley have been “drawn” to host Burgess Hill Town on Wednesday night. But should the Millers be facing SCEFL side Hollands & Blair instead?

Blair were due to face the Sussex side in the Preliminary Round ten days ago. But at 6.00pm on the Friday evening – the day before the tie was due to take place – Blair officials were informed by Burgess Hill that within their squad, there were players who had ‘symptoms’ of COVID19 – a fact that was later that evening confirmed (on the Sussex club’s official website) along with confirmation that the players had sadly tested ‘Positive’ – Blair decided not to travel for the safety and well being of all at the club.

They were subsequently “withdrawn” from the competition and charged by the governing body with “failing to fulfil the tie.”

Despite submitting an immediate “defence” to the authorities, totally unbelievably up to the day before the next round tie, the Gillingham based club still have not had a reply from the Football Association, and the Sussex side, who have reached the Fourth Qualifying Round three times in the last six years, were granted passage into the next round despite a background of other clubs already “withdrawing” from the competition in these troubled times when having players sadly come down with the disease.

KSN has been sent a copy of the letter that Hollands & Blair have sent to the FA on Tuesday seeking clarification of the position as on the eve of the next round and the Sussex side’s “trip” to face Kevin Watson’s side, the footballing authorities still have not told Simon Halsey’s side why they have effectively kicked Blair out of the competition for protecting their players, officials and supporters from this terrible disease.

The position is especially disturbing as at least three other clubs have sadly already had to withdraw themselves from the Cup because of positive tests for COVID19. Add to that the comments that the Burgess Hill Chairman has made to the press in Sussex claiming that Blair should “as a club pay them compensation for loss of money” for the cancellation of the game.

For the FA not to respond to Blair’s “mitigation” response to the ludicrous charge of “failing to fulfil the fixture” is one thing, but to then allow the next round tie to continue as planned is beyond belief.

KSN has asked a number of Kent managers for their comments. One told us, “No way should Blair have been kicked out – it’s a disgrace and again shocking level of consistence.” Another said, “The FA are a disgrace! How can they do this to a small club? Leyton Orient were allowed to cancel their game (to “protect” Spurs this week) – why weren’t Blair allowed the same treatment? In my opinion they should still be in the competition,” whilst a third warned, “How can Blair be kicked out for doing something that’s right? The FA could be setting a strange precedent if they’re not careful!”

A couple of the responses we received called for the game to be replayed; “Play when it’s possible – why not this week?” one asked, whilst another boss told us, “I would love to see the result sorted out on the pitch as I don’t think its fair for either side to necessarily be “punished” assuming both sides have tried to do the right thing… Blair’s decision was absolutely correct in my opinion and I hope they get the chance to state their case properly before the FA… common sense should have prevailed and let’s be honest, the game could have been replayed by now!”

Comment – what KSN would like to ask would happen if – heaven forbid – the competition gets further along, and a Premier League side comes up against another team who act in a similar way to Burgess Hill? Would the Premier League side be kicked out?

We leave that to answer yourself… all Blair and for that matter football in general is asking for from the authorities is consistency; as one of our respondents said, the FA’s poor actions in this instance sets a very dangerous precedent for the Greatest Cup Competition in the World!”