For the second season in a row, the National League North and South seasons will end prematurely after clubs voted to end the campaign with immediate effect.
Despite the 2021/22 campaign being almost a third finished after starting late in October, some teams haven’t played since Boxing Day due to Covid issues, weather-related postponements and a temporary suspension of football at that level from January 22.
Four resolutions were presented to clubs operating at step two, and it has been decided in a vote that ending the season now is the best course of action.
It will be a bitter blow for many, but with the £10 million that the government delivered to non-league clubs in the Sport Winter Survival Fund now all gone and no promise of further grant funding – ministers have confirmed that all future payment will come in the form of repayable loans – the continuation of the campaign was simply financially impossible.
One of the main issues angering tier six clubs is that they have played a handful of games – 21 in the past fortnight, to be exact – that have had no relevance, and yet they have still incurred costs of testing and employing matchday staff. That money will not be reimbursed.
There was a considerable North/South divide in the vote, with a majority of clubs in the National League South – 12 to 9 – voting to continue the season while those in the North went 7-15 against. The decision to halt the campaign was made on the balance of all votes cast.
One club who unsurprisingly voted to continue the 2021/22 season were Dorking Wanderers, who are sitting top of the National League South. Their owner, Marc White, has confirmed that the Surrey outfit will be appealing the decision, and has said that he ahs the support of other senior figures on the matter.
“We did not feel that a vote was necessary,” White said in a statement.
“Instead we felt that a much more collaborative approach was required given the very difficult circumstances people found themselves in.
“We felt that during the recent suspension it would have been a perfect opportunity to work alongside clubs to understand how the competition could be completed.”
National League to Continue….But At What Cost?
Meanwhile, clubs in the National League were given their own vote on whether or not to continue, and they voted 13-7 against ending the current season.
Two clubs failed to cast their vote, but with a 51% majority reached the decision will be carried forward by the National League’s board and taken to the Football Association for ratification.
There, the tier five decision-makers will look to get the green light to continue, while discussing whether promotion and relegation matters will be resolved as normal. That would be a thorny subject for the two clubs who finish in the relegation places, given that the tier six campaign was less than half finished.
Such has been the divide between the clubs in coming to their final decision that Jim Parmenter, the owner of Dover Athletic, has resigned from the National League board in protest. He believes that the division’s richer clubs and those targeting promotion are putting the rest in financial jeopardy.
“The league has for 10 years insisted that clubs manage their financial affairs prudently, and has had great success and received much praise for the results, now that is all to be thrown to the dogs and for what?” Parmenter said.
“I understand why the bigger, richer clubs with chances of promotion are pushing hard to continue, but in a sense they are asking smaller clubs with no crowds or income who are playing for no reason to take large loans and probably overstretch themselves with dire consequences, to subsidise the larger clubs ambitions.”