Football suspended

There will be no matches for York City or other clubs in the National League North today. The division has been suspended until at least 6th February.

It means that the clubs first fixture at the Community Stadium may be on 13th February against Farsley.

The Club have issued a brief statement.

However, there is a growing likelihood that the season will be abandoned altogether, with must clubs in the league very unhappy about the government’s decision not to underwrite the additional costs of playing games behind closed doors.

Grants were made to cover costs during the autumn period. The expectation at that time was that the virus would be under control by Christmas. For a time small crowds were allowed back into some grounds.  

However soaring COVID-19 cases led to a further lockdown, with fans having to watch games via streaming services.

Most clubs at National North level exist on modest budgets and depend on the services of part time players. Most players have other jobs (York is a full-time outfit).  

The government offered loans to clubs to cover lost revenue. Most indicated that they could not legally continue trading at a loss, which would have been one of the consequences of the loan idea.

Last week 12 clubs wrote to the National League saying that the season should be abandoned if the government did not change its approach.

Chester City Chief Executive on Twitter

One club chairman pointed out that if the season were halted – and players and staff put on furlough – then this would cost the government more than extending the grant system until grounds were able to reopen.

Money is not the only issue.

Some clubs are having difficulty accessing COVID testing facilities. That is something that the government could and should fix quickly.

Another club Chief Executive said,

With the fact that there is no testing paid for, unlike higher in the pyramid, it was not fair to put players, staff & their families at risk.
Although a separate issue to the club funding it was equally important to get that resolved if by some miracle the season does continue.
Some players have pregnant wives, live with older parents etc… Putting them & their loved ones at risk. Plus of course interaction in players workplaces again adding to the chance of infection”.

While there may be some element of brinkmanship from the clubs as they seek to get the best deal possible, the government should recognise that it is their decisions that have caused the problem.

They should quickly agree to continue the grants system agreed last summer.

Ironically, if National League football is halted, then the first competitive game to be played at the new Community Stadium may feature the York Knights Rugby team! They are hoping to start their fixtures on 21st March 2021.

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