Vanarama National League North and South suspended over funding dispute
The Vanarama National League North and South, featuring several Bermudians, have been suspended for two weeks after a dispute over funding.
The competition's board decided on Friday to halt the campaign, resulting in fixtures in both divisions at the weekend being postponed.
In Vanarama National League North, Dale Eve’s Spennymoor Town were due to travel to Curzon Ashton, while Knory Scott and Keziah Martin at Kidderminster Harriers were to face a trip to Bradford Park Avenue. The suspension does not affect the National League involving Justin Donawa at Solihull Moors, Milan Butterfield’s Chesterfield and Jonté Smith at Woking.
“Following the review of the feedback from clubs in connection to the recent clubs meeting, a board meeting this morning decided to halt the participation in the North/South divisions for a two-week period, effective immediately,” read a short statement from the National League. “As a result, games are formally postponed.”
The decision comes after half of the clubs in the National League North issued a joint statement calling for the immediate suspension of the season.
The row escalated after the National League's £10 million share of the British Government’s winter survival package reached its three-month expiry, with clubs given the choice of accessing individual loans, sharing a central loan or suspending the campaign altogether.
The decision to make any future funding in the form of loans rather than grants angered many clubs across the National League’s three divisions, leaving the continuation of the North and South seasons in grave doubt.
Only a handful of clubs had been able to let supporters into their grounds at any point during the season and, after the surge in coronavirus cases, all games have been without crowds.
Gate receipts make up the vast majority of revenue for National League clubs and so many are reluctant to take on the financial burden without the support of grants.
Before the National League’s decision of a two-week suspension, 12 National League North sides, including Spennymoor Town, signed joint statement calling for an immediate suspension of action in order to have time to find a “solution that is acceptable to all”.
The statement read: “We are quite simply not prepared to trade while insolvent.
“Therefore, we are calling for the immediate suspension of the league competition to allow the National League, FA and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport time to find a solution that is acceptable for all.
“This suspension will allow us the time to lobby our respective MPs and carry out our own financial risk assessments against avoiding a null and void scenario.
“An inability to secure acceptable funding to cover Covid testing and the loss of fans will continue to render us insolvent, and we are not prepared to prolong this beyond January 29, 2021.
“We are duty-bound as mere custodians of our clubs and will do everything we can to ensure we do not place any avoidable further financial burden now or in the future upon our community assets.
“Quite simply, 66 clubs would not have willingly participated in any footballing competition which initiated playing contracts without assurances.”
Slough Town, Concord Rangers and Tonbridge Angels, all of National League South, also made it clear earlier on Friday that they would not take part in games until they had clearer information on financial support due.
The National League is due to meet with the DCMS early next week with a view to finding a resolution that would allow the season to restart.