NATIONAL League general manager Mark Ives insists matches will only be called off if clubs have fewer than 14 players available, writes CHRIS PHILLIPS.

Braintree Town's Essex derby with Chelmsford City, which was scheduled for last Sunday, was postponed due to Covid-19 cases in the Clarets.

The Iron are due to get back to action in National League South with a trip to play Dorking Wanderers, on Saturday.

Ives explained the league’s decision making process with regards to matches being postponed.

“I’ve got a number of issues with clubs at the moment that have got Covid within their camps,” said Ives.

“What we will do is get the evidence from the club.

“I don’t see any personal medical information, it’s verified between the league doctor and the club doctors.

“They liaise on a professional basis to verify the medical situation.

“It will then be relayed to me in terms of numbers that have Covid or are having to isolate because they’ve been in close contact and are unvaccinated or not double jabbed.

“I will then look at how many players the club has registered and it’s a basic mathematical exercise.

“How many do you have registered, how many Covid and I emphasise Covid not injuries, and providing you have more than 14 players available including a goalkeeper then the game goes ahead.

“We will apply that consistently across the board.”

Six National League matches were postponed on Boxing Day but Ives has been pleased with how the league has continued during an extremely difficult period.

“I think we’re actually doing really well,” said Ives.

“Most of the clubs are helping us to fulfil the games and we’ve had far more games played than we have being postponed which is a good position.

“It’s getting tougher, we know that.

“But we can’t compromise on the safety of players and the people participating and assisting with clubs.

“The protocols we have in place are there for a reason.

“We issued the protocols before the start of the season and reissued some midway through.

“We’re emphasising personal responsibility for the clubs so that they ensure they do all they possibly can and, in the main, it’s working.

“It’s hard but it’s hard for all the clubs and the people trying to make sure we fulfil the season.”

And, with that in mind, matches will not be allowed to be called off easily.

“People who are not involved in the process will draw their own conclusions as to what’s going on and what isn’t going on,” explained Ives.

“We ensure that every club coming to us with issues is evidencing what they’ve got.

“We primarily work on positive PCR results, not just lateral flow.

“Everything has to be evidenced and we want to protect the league from those clubs who might be accused of trying to manipulate the situation because of injuries.

“I have no evidence of that happening but we counteract that anyway by ensuring that we are given the evidence that supports what is being said to us.”

The National League is now approaching the half-way point of the season.

But, despite admitting talks did take place after halting the campaign, Ives remains keen for matches to keep on going ahead “We had the discussion but we’re in this business to play football and providing we can do so safely we will continue to do so,” said Ives.

“I personally don’t support a break at this moment in time but what is important is that we continue to review the situation, the same as the Government reviews it.

“We constantly look at their guidance and we look closely with our colleagues at the Football Association and the other leagues.

“We will keep it under review but, at this time, there is no evidence to support the need for a break.”

However, matches are more likely to go ahead if players are vaccinated.

And Ives would ideally like to see more individuals having the injections. “I personally believe it’s the responsibility of those within the game to ensure, the best they can, that they’re fit to play,” explained Ives.

“Having the vaccinations quite clearly supports the ability to keep being able to play.

“Firstly, if you are double vaccinated and you come into close contact with someone who contracts Covid, under the current legislation you do not have to isolate and that enables games to be played.

“I’ve seen the evidence and games are being played because they have a high percentage of double vaccinated players.

“On the other side of the coin, games have had to be called off only because there aren’t enough double vaccinated players.

“We would strongly urge people to support the vaccination process and get themselves double vaccinated so we can keep people safe, which is the most important thing.

“Secondly we can complete the season which is what we’re here to do.”