Every few days the National League picture is changing, every day I’m receiving messages, speaking to people, and listening to interviews to find out exactly where we all stand and from one 24 hours to the next the landscape moves quite drastically.
There are various meetings happening almost daily now to try and get a resolution to what I call is ‘the mess of non-league football.’ Trying to keep on top of it is also a challenge in itself and understand exactly what the latest position is for each division.
The position of each club is the big variety and I think Marc White at Dorking Wanderers put it well that each club has an opinion and in many cases it is going to be different from club to club and in other cases it will be the same as some clubs.
Clubs met with Sport England on Friday morning to ascertain further what can be done to help, also after a meeting this week with the leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer. Grants applications are able to be made for the National League but those are expected to take four weeks minimum to come through, so clubs will in effect have played January and February without funding but wages to pay. These grants are also for those whose immediate future are at risk, otherwise once again it’s loans which we know are not feasible for clubs with no idea when they will actually earn income to pay it back.
Whilst they apply for a grant, they are being asked to vote next week on the resolution to the season, surely that decision needs to either be delayed or clarification sought to ascertain how long grants would actually take? The National League board itself should have been walking down this road at the end of last year so plans were in place after Christmas to get things sorted out as quickly as possible.
Clubs certainly don’t know where they’re coming from, neither do players. Speaking to people at different clubs over the past few days at boardroom level down to managers and players the lack of what can be planned causes as much concern.
Players and managers at National League clubs believe the North and South divisions will cease playing sooner rather than later and the top division itself a 50/50 split in which way a vote would go. With so little difference in points between clubs, why wouldn’t clubs and chairmen want a crack at promotion to League Two?
Speaking to Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm on Friday morning, he believes grants are the only way forward.
‘Grants are needed without fans to keep clubs sustainable, loans with no relegation are pointless because clubs won’t need to pay wages they are paying and can reduce the budget by a third or less to keep playing, but it would affect the top of the table as it wouldn’t be a strong competition.’
‘A lot of clubs weren’t happy with the original funding distribution through the National League and there lies a problem. I wonder if clubs will have to take the same size loan as they received as a grant because it was obviously needed at a few clubs.’
‘As for safety reasons, players, staff, and volunteers etc, I’m seeing a lot of people asking for funding for testing but hardly anyone was asking for this during the first few months of the season. The league has been stopped for funding issues, not testing. Every member started the season knowing there was no testing taking place, unless clubs themselves undertook to do it, just protocols to be followed and all adhered to it.’
‘I believe there has been no clear dialogue between the DCMS and the National League forwarded onto clubs and the goalposts, pardon the pun, seem to keep moving.’
Eastbourne Borough boss Danny Bloor would like his team to just be able to play football but accepts that might be difficult.
‘I just want my team to be able to continue to play football. I don’t have an opinion on whether we resume on 6th February as we just don’t know, I’ll leave my chairman and CEO to deal with that side of things.’
‘Having enjoyed a good campaign so far it would be a shame for things to end but it is what it is and we have put excellent foundations into place for the future.’
‘We just continue to train like we always do unless we are told otherwise, however it was nice to play QPR Under 23’s during the week, it keeps game time up for the squad whilst not playing competitive fixtures.’
As of Thursday clubs were unaware exactly what they are voting on when it comes to Monday, hopefully by the time this article is online there is a clearer idea of the options, one thing is for certain it’s not going to be a winner for everyone and will be remembered for the mess rather than the football………