Farsley Celtic’s chief executive has backed a two-week suspension of National League North games as discontent escalates over lifeline funding during the Coronavirus pandemic.
National League North and National League South games have been suspended for two weeks amid discontent over funding after several clubs had called for the season to be halted until concerns over loan offers to fund elite non-league sides and Covid-19 testing were addressed.
National League clubs started the season thanks to £10m in grants from the government, but are now being offered government loans to continue playing.
Many – including Farsley Celtic – have said they are worried about the financial implications of taking on loans to cover costs incurred by the coronavirus pandemic and competing behind closed doors.
Clubs met on Wednesday and were told they would either have to take out loans or suspend their season.
Farsley Celtic Chief Executive Josh Greaves said:
“As you know, we have been playing behind closed doors for the last three months as an “Elite” sports team, however, this has only been possible due to the grant funding that the National League and the club received from the National Lottery for three months up to December 2020.
“However, at a meeting held by the National League on Wednesday this week, I was informed that there was no longer a grant available to the league and in turn the club, and that any future funding would have to take the form of a loan from the government sports winter support package.
“In addition, such loans would only be available to cover the operating period from January to March 2021, so would not available through to the end of the season.
“This was not the understanding of myself, our board or every club in the National League back when we decided to support the start of the season in October.
“We are working with other clubs and the league to understand when the decision was changed from grants to loans, why this has only been made known now, and we will seek further information and guidance so we can make decisions as to how we move forward in the best interests of the Club.
“As a club, we are strongly against burdening ourselves with unnecessary debt, especially as this would only fund the club for the next three months, and there is no firm commitment as to what funding may be available for April and May.”
Mr Greaves said there were several areas he is seeking clarification on from the National league which he wants asking while fixtures are suspended. He added in a statement:
“We now have two weeks in which the league and clubs will be doing all they can to try to change the loans into grants, which, in my opinion, is going to be a tall task to do.
“I will issue a further statement in due course as things become clearer, but in the meantime, I would like to thank everyone for their support so far this season, whether that’s by the live stream or donations, and hopefully when this is all over we can welcome you back into the ground for some football.”
A dozen National League North clubs called for the league to be suspended on Thursday as the row over funding escalated.
However, the Government has challenged the clubs’ version of events.
“It is untrue to suggest funding to the National League was ever promised as all grants, and they have been unable to substantiate this claim,” said a DCMS spokesperson.
“In October we brokered a unique deal with the National Lottery to provide a £10m cash injection to keep step one and two clubs afloat, and recently announced another £11m in low-interest loans to support them in line with support offered to other sports.
“If any individual step one and two National League club can demonstrate it is in critical need of support and would be unable to repay a loan, grant applications will be assessed on a case by case basis.
“This will, of course, be through the same rigorous process that we apply to other sports.”