11:00AM, Thursday 18 February 2021
Maidenhead United’s CEO Jon Adams says he had expected to be in a much clearer position over the direction of travel for the remainder of the National League season, with the outcome of a vote to determine whether to terminate the campaign or play on still unknown 17 days on.
More than two weeks after clubs were asked to vote on a series of resolutions for determining the outcome of their respective seasons, not much more is known on whether the season will progress or not.
The expectation, certainly at the National League level, is that the campaign will continue to be played behind closed doors, with clubs having the option of taking on long-term, low interest, loans to guide them through a period in which they’ve had hardly any income. However, the situation is much less clear for the National League North and South divisions, where the majority of clubs in the South league appear to want to continue with the opposite being true in the North league. If the first resolution is passed, to enable each club a vote on its respective division, a simple majority is needed either way for the season to be cancelled or continued.
“I think we all expected to know more,” said Adams this week. “But different clubs have different approaches. Certainly, as the National League level there’s not a great deal of information about which clubs have returned their votes and which haven’t.
“All of us have tended to stay relatively quiet about that. We returned our votes early doors because we wanted some clarity over where the season was at and what the direction of travel would be for us and the leagues below. Other clubs have taken the decision to hold back because they want to continue to lobby and influence Government for more grant support and all those sorts of things.
“We’re still lobbying on that front, but we didn’t feel that altered the need to get some clarity on where we were with the season. Because if the season isn’t progressing, that potentially changes the picture in terms of the funding that’s needed. It’s frustrating that we don’t have any clarity and haven’t had any direct communication from the National League on this for more than 10 days since they issued the voting forms.
“We’ve had nothing formally from them, although I believe there’s been some stuff on social media suggesting we may get some information this week, which would be helpful that’s for sure.”
In the National League, Dover and Wealdstone have stated their desire to see the season curtailed and declared null and void, while in the North and South divisions several clubs, including Maidenhead’s neighbours Slough Town, have refused to play matches while the outcome of the vote is unknown, incurring a charge from the league.
“I think I said before it’s clearer at National League level that clubs feel a responsibility to continue,” Adams added. “Dover have recently announced that they’ve furloughed their staff now and I’m not sure if they’ll be playing their games with non-contracted players and youth team players, but they’ve certainly furloughed their first team. Most other clubs are operating normally at our level, but it’s far less clear in the National League North and South. The impression I get is that there’s more teams in the South that want to continue than don’t but I think the reverse is the case in the North league. The problem is it’s all speculation at the moment.
“My money would be on the National League continuing, and it’s certainly operating normally. The things that have been stopping games recently has been the weather and not COVID or teams not wanting to play matches. That’s clearly not the same in the North and South where teams are choosing not to play, so it’s in the balance as to whether those leagues will continue.”
Maidenhead will continue to lobby Government for more grant support to see them through the remainder of the season, but Adams said the club would apply for funding under the Winter Survival Programme. Whether that comes in the form of loans, as seems to be the case, or is a mixture of loans and grants is not yet known, but Adams said the club would be open and transparent with Sport England over the state of their finances and look to minimise the debt they take on.
“The offer of the National League to take out a loan and provide it as a grant is no longer on the table,” he said.
“It’s been disregarded by most clubs. It was fraught with all sorts of complications and challenges so it’s not being considered any more.
“The option that’s under consideration is whether we apply for funding under the winter survival programme, which is a funding programme run by Sport England. We are in the process of applying for that funding, we will make an application. What we’re not clear about is whether that application for funding will be made on the basis of a loan or on the basis of grant funding.
“We will continue to lobby on the basis that we believe it should be a grant rather than a loan. We’ll be open and transparent with Sport England about where we are at and the level of support we require. But clearly we will look to minimise the potential for us to take on any significant debt.”
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