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HERALD EXPRESS - FANS' ZONE 15/08/2020



SALARY CAPS,  SEASON TICKETS,  REGIONAL FOOTBALL -  MORE  DISCUSSION  TOPICS Another busy week of football news but still related to off-field matters, although a number of pre-season friendlies were played last Saturday. All National League clubs met with the league board via Zoom last Thursday to discuss various issues and from it we learn that the 2020-21 fixture list will be released on September 8.

The NL also confirmed the four stages for the return to football: first, return to no contact training, then return to close contact training, third, return to competition (pre-season) but no spectators - United have lined up friendlies, the first on September 5, with Exeter City, Hemel Hempstead, Bournemouth U-23, Bath City and Chippenham - and lastly, return to competition with the safe return of spectators, hopefully from October 3.

There had been some speculation recently that the ‘missing’ place in either National North or South might be filled by Bury FC but this was knocked on the head as the FA confirmed this was not possible this year but did not rule out Bury applying for a place for season 2021-22.

The National League will be finalising the make-up of the three divisions this week after the FA’s appeals panel, who met yesterday (Tuesday), decide whether Macclesfield will be deducted further points which could mean Stevenage escaping relegation. It has, though, been agreed that the National League will run with a full complement of 24 teams, National North will have 22 but South 21.

One issue which wasn’t discussed at the NL board meeting was about salary caps. Last week Leagues 1 & 2 agreed to introduce a salary cap from this season - League 1 at £2.5 million and £1.5 for League 2 - however the Professional Footballers’ Association are fighting this claiming it’s unenforceable. So that’s another story to run for a while.

But should the National League have a salary cap too? A figure of £900,000 has been suggested and if this were to be implemented just how much is Clarke Osborne pumping into running United and could this affect Gary Johnson’s plans?

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Unfortunately too late for last week’s column was the club’s announcements on my regular topic of season tickets. It would seem that a limited number of the Yellow Army season ticket holders have been contacted by the club and have donated their remainder of last season’s to the club, which TUST recommended to our members. However, whilst a ST holder myself for almost 30 years I’m still awaiting contact as are many others. The club needs to fully explain its refund policy.

Although last week’s National League board meeting with the clubs recommended that season tickets should not be put on sale yet, United had already gone ahead with a number of interesting initiatives for renewing so full credit to the club for their acknowledgement of the importance of the Yellow Army. For those of us who have ‘bought’ into this let’s hope we can actually watch inside Plainmoor. We should, though, remember that there will be many who, for various reasons, will be reluctant  to renew. The club needs very soon to spell out how they will manage the Yellow Army’s return to Plainmoor.

And should at some time during the season there be reasons for spectators being excluded, the club will endeavour to stream the matches.

Wrexham, have taken a different view and will be selling two blocks of 10 matches at a time and finally three to make up the total of 23 home games. They reckon that although The Racecourse Ground can hold 10,771 they’ll only be allowed 2,600 - and their average attendance last season was around 4,000.

Meanwhile Hartlepool have already sold 1000 with another 500 available and with the Victoria Park’s capacity being 7865, the club feel they’ll be limited to only 2000.

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With Droylsden going out of business last week and Dover on the brink, these Covid times have triggered an on-going debate about regionalised football being re-introduced. It’s a topic which divides opinion.

Maybe cricket has shown a way forward? With the traditional County Championship impossible to run - 18 counties split into two divisions - the English Cricket Board has come up with an alternative which has just started, known as the Bob Willis Trophy, the counties are divided equally into three geographical regions. And it’s been a great success - less travelling, less expenditure on hotel stays and more local derbies.

The longer it goes with no football and with no spectators there is every likelihood of more clubs falling by the wayside so a proper discussion on regional football for League 2 and the National League is surely worth holding.

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Who’s joining the National League Part Three? Founded in 1891 by a Sunday School, Altrincham were founder members of the Manchester League in 1893 - not having a great start, losing their opening game 7-0 and finishing their inaugural season bottom. In 1980 they were nearly voted into the Football League as the top non-league club having won the Alliance Premier - equivalent to the National League now - getting 25 votes but Rochdale kept their place in the FL with 26 votes.

Alty then went through a yo-yo existence: 2004-05 promoted to the Conference National, relegated to the Conference North in 2011, returned to Conference National in 2014 but two years later the club was back in the North but since then there’s been two promotions in the last three years under manager Phil Parkinson, a sports science lecturer and The Robins join the National League as a part-time outfit.

The Gulls have played Altrincham in a total of eight league matches winning four, drawing three with only one defeat. Last two matches between the clubs a 1-1 draw at Moss Lane in October 2015 with a 2-0 home win at Plainmoor in April 2016.

Altrincham do hold an FA Cup record for a non-league team, knocking out more EFL clubs than any other non-league sides - 17.

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United boss Gary Johnson is keen for the National League to adopt the five substitutes rule that was introduced when the Premier League re-started and although individual leagues are able to agree or not about this, the Premier League clubs last week voted against the idea with the ‘smaller’ clubs feeling it hands an unfair advantage to the wealthier teams with bigger squads.

The meeting also decided against having match day squads of 20 keeping the number at 18.  It will be interesting to see what the National League decides.

One law change for the coming season affects all teams as penalties will no longer be automatically retaken if the goalkeeper infringes in the build-up to a spot kick. A keeper’s offence must “clearly affect” the penalty taker for a spot-kick to be retaken if missed.

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Last week’s column listed an impressive list of previous managers at Weymouth but oh dear one significant name was left out! So many thanks to Malcolm Richards to point out my omission - Frank O’Farrell, now 92 and living locally, who managed Weymouth from 1961-65.

You can contact me at: fanszone.tu@gmail.com

To all the Yellow Army stay safe.

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Nick Brodrick, TUST board member and Supporter Liaison Officer, writes a weekly column for the Herald Express under the heading "Fans' Zone". Keep an eye out for next weeks edition in the paper on Wednesday.



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