Non-league clubs asked to vote on ending season now

Actions from the game Bradford Park Avenue v FC Halifax Town at Horsfall Stadium.Actions from the game Bradford Park Avenue v FC Halifax Town at Horsfall Stadium.
Actions from the game Bradford Park Avenue v FC Halifax Town at Horsfall Stadium.
Halifax Town, Bradford (Park Avenue), Farsley Celtic, Guiseley and York City have been given their options as clubs in English football’s fifth and sixth tiers debate whether to continue the season.

The National League, which administers the Conference Premier, North and South, had a second day of meetings with Sport England yesterday to discuss funding.

Its clubs were bailed out by £10m of grants in October, but these have now ceased to be replaced with £11m of loans, available until March. There are currently no plans for how the remainder of the season would be funded if matches are behind closed doors.

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Clubs were under the impression the second tranche of funding would also be grants, wrongly says the Government. The National League has set up a petition calling for grants.

A joint statement by 16 Conference North and South clubs including Park Avenue, Farsley and Guiseley last week called loans “merely an extension to our life support and therefore foolhardy” and demanded the season be ended by Friday. Conference North York want to play on, saying they have budgeted to do so, whilst some argue a responsibility to do so.

The matter will be decided by a multi-part vote. Under league rules, clubs have 28 days to vote, although if there is a consensus it is possible a decision could be reached before February 28.

Firstly, all 66 will be asked if there should be a collective decision, or separate votes by the 23 Conference clubs and the 43 below, about their divisions. This vote will be weighted in favour of higher-tier clubs, and needs a 75 per cent majority.

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If that passes, a simple majority on a one-club-one-vote basis would void the season at the level which voted for it, subject to Football Association approval. Otherwise, a collective decision will be made on a weighted basis.

Voiding would guarantee no relegation for League Two clubs such as Bradford City and Harrogate Town, and probably a domino effect down the pyramid with no prospect of promotion.

Many leagues below Conference North level, including the Northern Premier League, have asked the FA to void their seasons but are anyway not allowed to play during lockdown.

This weekend the Conference North and South are due to come out of a two-week suspension so funding issues could be addressed but some clubs have said they will not fulfil fixtures.

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