National League North clubs call for an immediate suspension of the season

PA

Twelve National League North clubs have called for an immediate suspension of the season ahead of a league board meeting on Friday.

The futures of the National League, National League North and National League South were thrown into serious doubt when the Government, who had provided a £10million rescue package in October, said any future funding would have to be in the form of loans rather than grants.

All 66 clubs across the three divisions were given the option of taking an individual loan from the Government, taking a centralised loan from the National League or cancelling the season at a meeting on Wednesday.

A large number of clubs, including half of the National League North, have chosen the third option and want the league scrapped before this weekend where they will have to incur more costs and – without any coronavirus testing – put themselves at risk.

The National League board is meeting on Friday to discuss feedback from the clubs, but with no sign of a Government U-turn, the prospects of playing on look bleak.

Telford, Alfreton, Bradford Park Avenue, Blyth, Curzon Ashton, Darlington, Farsley Celtic, Gateshead, Guiseley, Kettering, Southport and Spennymoor Town all joined together in signalling their intent for the National League North season to be stopped.

A joint statement read: “Whilst the integrity of the National League is important, we do not value this above the safety and wellbeing of our families, staff, volunteers or that of our heroic workers who are tackling this pandemic on the frontline.

“Furthermore, we have now been asked to consider loans against our clubs and we are quite simply not prepared to trade whilst insolvent.

The National League, National League North and National League South are under severe threat
The National League, National League North and National League South are under severe threat

“Therefore, we are calling for the immediate suspension of the league competition to allow the National League, FA and the DCMS time to find a solution that is acceptable to all.

“This suspension will allow us the time to lobby our respective MPs and carry out our own financial risk assessments against avoiding a Null and Void scenario.

“An inability to secure acceptable funding to cover Covid-19 testing and the loss of fans will continue to render us insolvent and we are not prepared to prolong this beyond the 29th January 2021.

“We are duty bound as mere custodians of our clubs and will do everything we can to ensure we do not place any avoidable further financial burden now or in the future upon our community assets.

“Quite simply, 66 clubs would not have willingly participated in any footballing competition which initiated playing contracts, without assurances.”

Club chairman Ant Smith has sent the following to the National League #YAMC💛💙 #GrantsNotLoanspic.twitter.com/crw9hhKgkO

— Concord Rangers FC (@ConcordRangers) January 22, 2021

Concord Rangers and Slough Town are two clubs in the National League South who have said they will not play their weekend games.

Concord chairman Anthony Smith claims the National League have made threats of expulsion if they do not fulfil their trip to Eastbourne.

Smith said via the club’s account on Twitter: “I can confirm that we will not be retracting our position. We as a club will not be fulfilling any fixtures until we have further clarity following Wednesday’s meeting.

“I must express my disappointment that the Board have not taken the opportunity to suspend competition today and then alleviate sending threats of expulsion.”

He then added on his personal account: “The threat of expulsion is a further embarrassment to the league from where I am sitting….Sometimes you have to respect other peoples decisions and not try and bully them into something they are not happy with..”

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