Poppies and others 'reiterate their stance' in loans and grants row

The National League North and South seasons appear to be hanging in the balance

Kettering Town are due to be back in action at Latimer Park next weekend but remain concerned over the possibility of taking out a loan to complete the season. Picture by Peter Short
Kettering Town are due to be back in action at Latimer Park next weekend but remain concerned over the possibility of taking out a loan to complete the season. Picture by Peter Short

Kettering Town and 15 other clubs across the National League North and South have chosen to “reiterate their stance” over the loans and grants row that is threatening to end the season.

It was confirmed this week that financial support for Step 2 clubs to help them to continue to play matches behind closed doors would be in the form of loans, rather than grants even though clubs claim they were expecting further grants after receiving them for the first three months of the campaign.

The row saw the National League North and South seasons suspended for two weeks last Friday and, since then, clubs have been forced to rearrange the fixtures that have been missed while also being instructed to be ready to return to action next weekend when Kettering are due to host Chester at Latimer Park.

But a number of clubs, including the Poppies, have made it clear that they are yet to “receive any assurances” over financial support and Covid-19 testing, which they believe are vital to continue playing.

It is now understood that a vote could take place next week to decide the outcome of the season.

In a statement released last night (Thursday), the 16 clubs said: “Firstly, we wish to acknowledge the decisiveness in which the National League dealt with our concerns by supporting our request for the immediate suspension of our competitions on January 22.

“We have this evening (Thursday) received a letter from Nigel Huddleston MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Sport, Tourism and Heritage) inviting us to a webinar tomorrow (Friday), which will allow Sport England to set out the criteria for loans and grants (the latter of which is available only for those with no ability to repay loans).

“Loans are merely an extension to our life support and therefore foolhardy.

“We have yet to receive any assurances as to how we may mitigate against our inability to test our employees and volunteers for Covid, or against the government’s insistence that we trade whilst insolvent.

“With no apparent end in sight, this excruciating pandemic has us all facing financial imbalances of varying degrees.

“All of this is adding to additional stress and uncertainty that could and should have been avoidable.

“Having since been ordered to reschedule our postponed games in accordance with the National League rules, we must now reiterate our stance.

“Without adequate and fair funding towards Covid testing and to offset against the loss of income, we are unable to uphold the integrity of the football pyramid and insist that the season is curtailed no later than Friday, February 5, to allow all clubs to be assessed for grants.”

The statement has been signed by the following clubs and chairmen: AFC Telford – Andy Pryce, Alfreton Town – Wayne Bradley, Bradford (Park Avenue) – Martin Knight, Concord Rangers – Antony Smith, Curzon Ashton – Wayne Salkeld, Chippenham Town – Neil Blackmore, Darlington – David Johnston, Dulwich Hamlet - Ben Clasper, Farsley Celtic – Joshua Greaves, Gateshead – Neil Pinkerton, Guiseley – Gary Douglas, Hereford – Rob Crawford, Kettering Town – David Mahoney, Slough Town – Kay Lathey, Southport – Ian Kyle, Spennymoor Town – Tony Wilson.