National League clubs to discuss loans today but 17 clubs from North and South want season curtailed

Regional divisions currently suspended...
National League clubs will hold meetings today. Photo: Oliver AtkinNational League clubs will hold meetings today. Photo: Oliver Atkin
National League clubs will hold meetings today. Photo: Oliver Atkin

A group of 17 clubs from the National League North and South have called on the season to be curtailed by February 5.

All 66 sides from the three National League divisions will meet with Sport England today to discuss loan and grant options in a bid to keep the campaign going.

However, the letter’s signatories said they feel unable to continue playing without grant payments and adequate Covid-19 testing.

Boston United are not among the clubs to have released this statement.

The statement, released yesterday, read: “Firstly, we wish to acknowledge the decisiveness in which the National League dealt with our concerns by supporting our request for the immediate suspension of our competitions on January 22.

“We have this evening received a letter from Nigel Huddleston MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Sport, Tourism and Heritage) inviting us to a webinar tomorrow, which will allow Sport England to set out the criteria for loans and grants (the latter of which is available only for those with no ability to repay loans).

“Loans are merely an extension to our life support and therefore foolhardy.

“We have yet to receive any assurances as to how we may mitigate against our inability to test our employees and volunteers for COVID, or against the government's insistence that we trade whilst insolvent.

“With no apparent end in sight, this excruciating pandemic has us all facing financial imbalances of varying degrees.

“All of this is adding to additional stress and uncertainty that could and should have been avoidable.

“Having since been ordered to re-schedule our postponed games in accordance with the National League rules, we must now reiterate our stance.

“Without adequate and fair funding towards COVID testing and to offset against the loss of income, we are unable to uphold the integrity of the football pyramid and insist that the season is curtailed no later than Friday, February 5, to allow all clubs to be assessed for grants.”

The three National League Divisions began their seasons in October after receiving grants from the National Lottery to compensate for the loss of revenue which would have been generated by supporters.

These grants ended in December, which led to a two-week suspension of the National League North and South as a number of clubs stated they would be unable to continue without financial support.

This week clubs were told to prepare to return to action on Saturday, February 6, and that long-term loans were being made available.

Grants were on offer to some teams under certain circumstances.

Signing off the letter were: AFC Telford, Alfreton Town, Bradford (Park Avenue), Blyth Spartans, Concord Rangers, Curzon Ashton, Chippenham Town, Darlington, Dulwich Hamlet, Farsley Celtic, Gateshead, Guiseley, Hereford, Kettering Town, Slough Town, Southport, Spennymoor Town.

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