FANS' ZONE 05/02/2021
THE CLAMOUR GROWS : ‘WE PLAY ON, WE FINISH THE SEASON'
It’s been a turbulent week for all National League football fans with a dark cloud hanging over the National Premier matches played while teams in National North & South had a second week of suspended games but the talk all came to a head with resolution Monday.
How did we get to this point? At the beginning of last week, after endless speculation, confirmation came from a DCMS letter from Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston, saying further funding would be loans and only grants in exceptional circumstances, as the finance was public money from Sports England. The letter added that the support provided was to “ensure clubs survive.”
This coincided with Torbay MP Kevin Foster’s letter to Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden and TUST’s letter which was later praised by the Football Supporters Association.
By Thursday 20 or so chairmen, directors and some supporters of National League clubs met Labour leader Kier Starmer. But not much was achieved with Starmer saying later that “ Labour is clear: no community should lose a much loved club because of Covid.”
This was followed by second DCMS letter to all NL clubs setting up a meeting with Sports England with a second on Tuesday for those who couldn’t attend Friday’s.
Meanwhile the NL board announced there would be a vote on a resolution, which turned out to be four fairly complicated resolutions sent to clubs on Monday evening. These resolutions are, once worked out, relatively easy for National Premier sides, basically continue the season, yes or no? But it’s more complicated in National North & South where a number of clubs are determined to end the season now if no further grants are available.
However, National South Eastbourne Borough’s chairman issued a statement, “ We will be voting to continue playing. We are also asking for National North & South to have separate votes. Relegation and promotion from the NL could be adjusted if necessary if only one division continues.”
National North Boston United chairman added, “ All clubs applied to the league to play the season, and have commenced, so we believe that we all have an obligation to complete the season if possible.”
A growing number of NL Premier clubs have declared their intention which is to continue. And this surely has to be the decision because if the NL wishes to be part of elite football and most importantly wants to retain the ‘two up, two down’ system with the EFL it has to continue playing.
The importance of this cannot be underestimated and is summed up by this statement from United’s Tuesday night opponents Altrincham, “ The member clubs must avoid any actions that could jeopardise our Elite status.”
Over the weekend there were two developments led by the National League, one is the setting up of a petition to DCMS to ‘Save National League football clubs with urgent support grants - not loans’. NL clubs and supporters are urged to sign the petition at: chng.it/2jrr7p95 and by Friday lunchtime this had reached 7,600, clearly not enough yet but the next target is to get to 10,000. If you haven’t signed up do it now!
Secondly, there have been talks with government about Covid testing - possibly free - across all three divisions to fall into line with fellow elite competitions.
Of the four resolutions sent to clubs on Monday evening; Resolution 1 sets out criteria for voting and requires a 75% majority.
Assuming this passes, Resolution 2, requiring a 50% majority, is the key one for the Gulls as it’s only about National Premier (Step 1). For legal reasons, clubs have 28 days to respond.
With Wrexham not involved it would need 11 clubs to vote against Resolution 2 for the National Premier to carry on.
Whilst off the pitch matters dominate, fortunately there’s been football to watch via streaming with United notching their third consecutive clean sheet, four if you count the FA Trophy win, with the defeat of rock bottom Barnet on Saturday, as United moved ten points clear at the top, with Adam Randell making the Team of the Day. So how to explain Tuesday night’s loss? Manager Gary Johnson never ceases to amaze when just hours before the Sutton fixture he conjured Joe Lewis out of the hat. Another great signing and surely a sign of building a squad fit for League 2.
And what of his philosophy about what to do when you go down to ten men? All the other players have to raise their game with an extra 10% which equals 100% - genius!
Jake Andrews’ goal at Barnet was the Gulls 40th with only FC Halifax on 32 close. But if it’s goals you crave, how about watching League 1 Rochdale who in 25 matches have been involved in a staggering 88 goals, 40 for and 48 against.
Tuesday night’s fixture at home to Altrincham was a huge disappointment. An off night? Poor team selection? Gary Johnson said afterwards that everybody had the Wednesday and Thursday off - there must have been a lot of head clearing going on around The Bay!
So it’s off to Southport for tomorrow’s FA Trophy 5th Round with £6,000 for the winners. It seems odd that the hosts are happy to play this but not any league matches and they’ve recently sold their top scorer to Accrington.
This week we’re back to ‘Three Word Fun’ - can you sum up in three words how you’re feeling about United leading the table?
Send your three to: firstname.lastname@example.org. or Twitter: @FanszoneT
To the Yellow Army stay safe - and get that vaccination!