This piece is likely to provoke a lot of debate or at least I hope it does, but I couldn’t get away with not blogging about the fines and points suspensions being handed out by the National League this week to eighteen clubs.
There appears to be quite a split between the fans of clubs who have carried on, those who wanted to carry on and those who feel their clubs have taken the right decision to call a halt to things.
I think we can all be agreed upon the fact that if the National League had made clear in late September/early October there was to be a problem with grant funding within the confines of the season then I don’t believe we would have kicked off without the concrete assurances of either fans back inside stadiums on an agreed date or funding to compensate for as long as it takes.
There has been a lot said about the plight of Dover Athletic, a side who we knew at the beginning of the season were in poor shape then to kick off. A lot of people don’t have the time for Jim Parmenter the chairman, but they cut their cloth accordingly to put themselves in position to start. They even stated then that if either funding didn’t continue or fans were not allowed back into the grounds they would struggle to continue.
They were however one of the clubs believed to have benefitted when the grants money was handed out by virtue of Parmenter’s place on the board which is why a lot of people don’t have a lot of sympathy for Dover and I get that, but I’m looking at this purely from the point of view as a fan.
We take Chesterfield, approved for a £1 million pound loan from Sport England to underpin operating costs. Now that loan might be low interest split over a number of years, but that repayment figure has to factored into budgets for years to come whilst having a squad able to compete at the right end of the table or surely there is no point to be out on the pitch? It might not sound a lot split over the time but still another cost impact to complete a season.
Then we have the North and South division clubs fined for not fulfilling fixtures in a competition that no longer exists in the record books, absurd as that sounds it’s quite true. What has been appalling the whole way through this sorry episode is the clubs having to make their way with no leadership from the competition they play in.
We have a governing body giving out fines to clubs whose reason for not playing was due to the fact there are no funds to cover playing these matches, you couldn’t make it up! It’s no surprise most if not all of these clubs are looking to appeal, where do the National League think the few thousand pounds are going to come from?
Each club took the option most viable to them, to protect themselves against not being here next season or to carry on playing because they believe they could sustain it.
In my opinion the totally correct decision if I were a fan of any one of these clubs, and as a fan of another club I would want all of these clubs to be here to begin next season, why should 500-10,000 fans miss out on football and have no team to support because they took the right decision to protect the precarious financial situation of their club?
Dover are taking a lot of flak, but just for the next few minutes put yourself in the position of a fan in the white shirt. You play on this season you finish the season and as soon as the last ball is kicked the club announce closure due to being fully insolvent. That could be your club, any one of the other 65 that make up the National League. I’ve been there growing up seeing it happen at Maidstone Utd, I very nearly experienced it at Barnet as well, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone because if I am correct this Thursday is the deadline for applications for entry into the pyramid system and after that date well no football for you next season if you go bust.
What I do agree with is there should be a punishment handed out as per the league rules but the opposite way round to the way they have handled things. By all means make the points deduction stick but hand out suspended fines only invoked in a new season. That might still not please clubs but it’s what I believe to be fair given we are in the most unprecedented of seasons but under National League jurisdiction there appears no room for manoeuvre.
The next question then comes when clubs reply there is no £2000 or £8000 in the club to pay the fine, what then? Another fine? Suspension of the club affiliation by the FA until the monies are paid? We could be treading a very dangerous path.
Like most of this past year, common sense and a little leeway has been in very short supply in a lot of aspects of daily life. If the aim has been to trim down the number of clubs we have in England then they’re going about it the right way.
So much of this could have been avoided from the very start and I’m not surprised to see talk of a vote of no confidence in the National League board they’ve not covered themselves in glory throughout this period and the communication over the last few weeks has been non-existent. No doubt this one will run and run for a little while to come…………………