THIS has certainly been 12 months none of us will forget.

When December 2019 turned to January 2020, the thought of the vast majority of the population being confined to their homes by law as a virus lets rip around the world would have seemed laughable.

As we all know now, though, Covid-19 is certainly no joking matter and while there is light at the end of the tunnel, things look like they are about to get darker still.

Sport, like all sectors, has been heavily impacted by coronavirus, especially at grassroots, amateur and semi-professional level.

In our area, football has been among the biggest losers in the sporting sector.

Back in March when Covid was first taking hold, there was no alternative but to bring the 2019-20 season to a premature end.

No further games could be played between then and May – on that, many agreed – but there was outcry among those who had worked their way to the brink of success.

By simply declaring everything null and void, the full campaign was wiped from the record books. Blushes were spared among strugglers and dreams were dashed amid the high-fliers.

Warrington Guardian: Warrington Town were third in the Northern Premier League Premier Division when coronavirus brought the 2019-20 season to an end. Picture by John HopkinsWarrington Town were third in the Northern Premier League Premier Division when coronavirus brought the 2019-20 season to an end. Picture by John Hopkins

Now, with the game below “elite” level grinding to a halt once more, the arguments for promotion and relegation to be decided via points per game or another mathematical formula look much better with hindsight.

When the current campaign got underway in September, it probably would have been naïve to think it would not pass without at least some Covid-related interruptions.

With cases rising and the national picture getting bleaker, it is probably time to look at something much greater than that – a second consecutive null-and-void season is getting closer and closer.

Most non-league and amateur sides have not played since before the second national lockdown in November and even when they have tried, an old adversary – the weather – got in the way.

Then when the vast majority of the country was placed under Tier 4 restrictions, the prospect of an imminent return in the new year was nixed.

And now, given what the Prime Minister announced last night, the likelihood appears that we will be under some form of lockdown – however severe – until at least the end of March.

Even in a best-case scenario, players will not be ready to play until mid-April and even then, for how many clubs would hosting matches be financially viable with secondary spend at grounds (bar takings, food etc) still likely to be curbed?

On the pitch, some teams have played as few as three games – most have played around 10 – so no real conclusions can be drawn about likely promotion winners.

With things as they are, surely it would be best to just make the call now and cancel the season at the now established “non-elite” level.

Of course, it is not quite as simple as that as there are plenty of things to consider outside of the obvious physical, mental and financial impact it will have on players, clubs and indeed supporters.

For instance, the FA’s planned restructure of the National League System was put back a year due to Covid and they will be reluctant to delay it further.

With cup competitions having been squeezed in earlier in the season as well, the FA Vase has reached its latter stages and snatching the chance of a Wembley day out away from those left standing would of course be cruel.

Warrington Guardian: Warrington Rylands have reached the last 32 of the FA Vase. Picture by Mark PercyWarrington Rylands have reached the last 32 of the FA Vase. Picture by Mark Percy

However, the situation demands realism and when that is applied, what choice is there?

The chances of getting seasons completed are remote – the Northern Premier League, for example, has more than 700 games outstanding that must be completed before the end of May.

Extending the season into the summer would cause too many complications with player contracts, ground availability and the knock-on effect with regards to next season.

As horrible as it is to admit, it is time to draw a line and take action now.