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FANS' ZONE 22/01/2021




COULD FUNDING ROW DERAIL NATIONAL LEAGUE SEASON?


Just when we were all getting excited about the vaccination roll-out with the hopeful return to some kind of ‘normal’ and United back to winning ways, along came a big blow to the future of National League football. The DCMS decision to fund the 66 National League clubs with loans and not grants from the new tranche of £11m has led to anger and recriminations.

With clubs given three options earlier in the week - suspending the season, accept a loan from Sports England repayable over 10 years at 2% interest with no interest or repayments for the first two years, the National League takes on the loan and then distributes grants but affecting future funding distribution - a meeting was held with the National League to gauge opinion.

This has led today (Friday) to the suspension, for two weeks, of National North & South. But the National Premier continues much to the relief of Gulls’ boss Gary Johnson who cannot see how the season can be suspended for the top league, saying, “It’s not an option.”

Clubs claim that they would not have agreed to starting the season last October had it been known that the funding after the first three months’ grants would not continue if needed.

The DCMS has issued a statement this evening saying,”It is untrue to suggest funding to the National League was ever promised as all grants and they have been unable to substantiate this claim.”

This now leads to accusations that either the National League or DCMS misled clubs because if grants weren’t promised to go through the season why do all National League clubs believe they were?

Clubs and fans are urged to write to their MP to lobby DCMS to review their decision.

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Spare a thought for those teams in the rest of non-league football. No matches, no income and still no allocation of their Government funding, through Sport England, to stay afloat.

It’s not surprising then that Steps 3 - 6 are agitating for leadership and decisions but without either there are now a variety of ideas circulating.

One such scheme is Project Non-League with around 35 clubs supporting a campaign against making the season null and void. They propose that teams are promoted using PPG (Points Per Games) from the last two seasons’ results but no relegation.

Last week this column reported that the Three Trident Leagues - Northern, Southern, Isthmian - had issued a statement calling for the season to be declared null and void. To establish what clubs think should happen the FA have now sent out a questionnaire survey, with a variety of options, not only to the Trident clubs but also to National North & South teams.

But taking into consideration the few number of matches played so far, for example in Step 3 81 per cent of fixtures are still to be played, some clubs have only played four, it’s going to be a big ask to complete a meaningful season.

To complicate matters further, the FA have just told clubs in Steps 3 - 6 that fixtures cannot resume until all clubs can admit paying spectators up to 30 per cent grading as was the case for Tier 2, effectively that means at Step 3 up to 600 fans. In addition matches cannot resume until all clubs are able to access secondary income such as bar takings.

Bearing in mind this directive it would seem to suggest the result of the survey is a foregone conclusion.

The FA have also added should it not be possible to complete the 2020-21 season at Steps 3&4 in full or via mathematical calculation, there will be no promotion or relegation between Steps 2&3. There is, though, still the question of returning National North & South to two leagues of 24 teams each as neither Bury nor Macclesfield have been replaced.

Should the season be ended how will this affect clubs’ sponsors and players’ contracts? These are crucial times for non-league football.

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Meanwhile back with actual football, there was United’s 4-0 second half romp in the FA Trophy match at Boreham Wood collecting £5250 prize money - Gary Johnson’s 100th game in charge - following the rather unusual postponement on Saturday based on a weather forecast which turned out to be incorrect. A trip to Southport in Round 5 awaits but will it be played?

Connor Lemonheigh-Evans’ fourth goal was United’s 50th in all competitions.

Back in the 1960s many will recall football matches played in the snow. As long as all the lines were cleared and visible the games went ahead - with an orange football!

Covid-Postponement Watch: Number of National League matches postponed to date: 72

It’s been a busy time for incoming loan transfers to Plainmoor: striker Rob Street from Crystal Palace, midfielder Max Sheaf from Hull City and James Hamon a goalkeeper from Truro City to cover for the injured Lucas Covolan.

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From responses to last week’s poll about run-out music there’s a strong feeling to retain ‘Children’ by Robert Miles for, as Yellow Army fan Tony Clark sums up for many, “ Whenever it’s played it brings a ‘hairs on the back of your neck’ feeling.”

But there may be an alternative and I’m indebted to Herald Express reader and United fan, Alan, for bringing to my attention a US Top 40 hit from 1959, an instrumental track ‘Torquay’ by The Fireballs released on Ace records. Those who know their music remember Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs had a US Number One with ‘Sugar Shack’ in 1963. Have a listen on YouTube.

And two other readers, Chris Larkin and Pete Brown reckon it should be Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’.

So this week’s question: should ‘Torquay’ by The Fireballs or ‘Yellow’ be added to the club’s playlist or both?

Answers to: fanszone.tu@gmail.com or Twitter: @FanszoneT

As always to all the Yellow Army stay safe.



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