Dining at the top table leaves an uncomfortable taste

In the midst of all things Barnet going through yet another managerial change it hasn’t gone unnoticed the Friday decision of the FA’s Alliance Committee over the ongoing National League saga for the North and South divisions.

With 18 clubs wanting to continue their season at Step 2 a proposal was tabled which I believe was to use a mathematical formula to take into consideration the starting points total for each club ending with promotion for two teams, one automatically and one via the play-offs, but no relegation from the top division.

The Alliance Committee however rejected the proposal and backed the original decision on the vote to null and void the season for both divisions meaning a second successive year for a season that failed to complete.

How did we get to this situation whereby clubs were having to fight a battle to want to play football? And why were there not any contingency plans put in place for an interrupted season in which we got less football at the lower levels than we did last season.

There can’t be much disagreement in saying the National League board have generated a lot of the in-fighting, the feeling of discontent and the need for some independent focus within the top echelons of the non-league game.

And for that it starts way back in the summer and last season’s play-offs. Dearly hanging onto the EFL coattails for promotion and relegation into the Football League sought out a need for the competition to be granted ‘elite’ status within the game, which brought the National League in line with those above up to the Premier League.

In order to promote upwards the NL were told by the EFL they had to relegate into the North and South which in turn you would say caused their play-offs to happen.

But it seems that rather than deal with those end of season games and then look at whether that was the correct decision it was popped in a drawer and tucked away, knowing full well it was likely to resurface and need to be dealt with.

Then we come to the beginning of the season, all ready, fans anticipating watching in stadiums once again and the rug was pulled sharpish back to behind closed doors at a time where there was concern cases were rising across the country days after test events had been underway.

At that time fans were still allowed up to a maximum of 600 people at Steps 3 and 4 and 300 at Steps 5 and 6. I still maintain that test events should have continued at Steps 1 and 2 until the second lockdown occurred but that’s my own opinion.

So now we get to the funding, provided by the National Lottery having been brokered by the DCMS (Department of Culture, Media, and Sport). £10 million pounds of lottery money to cover clubs from October through to December whereby the next level of funding will begin, well so we thought and so did 66 club chairman.

For the National League not to have any recorded meeting minutes to prove this was the case is without doubt their biggest failure as a governing board. Without that assurance I would imagine all 66 clubs would not have started the season and we wouldn’t be sitting here with half completed seasons for Step 2 nor clubs being ‘creative’ in the top division, as a board they sold their member clubs down the river.

Would the previous chief exec Michael Tattersall not resigned if things were honest and above board? Big accusation maybe but he’s not the one tasked with sorting out the mess him and his fellow board members created.

The creative part for me is clubs using the furlough scheme and I use it in the loosest sense of the word. Creative because it’s a loophole being explored, but also abuse of a system for people who physically can’t do their day job. It’s not something I agree with clubs doing at all for their players, especially not when they have signed players to replace those furloughed.

With Friday’s decision and despite the FA Council still needing to ratify the null and void decision, there will be no relegation from the National League. So for the likes of say Barnet, Kings Lynn, Weymouth, Wealdstone, and Woking, possibly more, why not furlough the lot and bring in youth team players or non-contract players and save a few quid?

After all, seven clubs voted to end the National League season originally, with only Dover currently refusing to play any more games. It’ll be interesting to see how stances will change if at all in the coming weeks for other clubs with no threat of relegation.

It’s far from being less farcical in any stretch of the imagination, when in reality we should all be talking about how refreshing it is to currently have a three way title race and below them as many as 13 clubs chasing play-off aspirations given that only eight points separates 4th place and 16th place at the time of writing with clubs having all manner of games in hand on each other, this is where the focus really should be.

None of these clubs have to my knowledge received any outside funding since the end of December, some must be running on fumes week to week and I’m happy to be corrected if wrong on the opening line of that paragraph.

So for all the effort clubs put into games in the North and South divisions amounts to nothing, time given up by volunteers and money spent by sponsors and on streams by fans the net result is zero.

And to next season, what becomes of the division numbers? This year we have seen odd numbers for both the top division and the South division, logic would suggest that Dover will face demotion for failure to fulfil fixtures, ironically protecting the future of the club, which makes an even 22 clubs all round.

So, that’s a wrap for all things North and South, mothballed until the summer comes around, I have a feeling though it might an uncomfortable AGM for the league when it takes place, nothing more really than they deserve……..

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