Southport FC has voted to suspend this year’s National League North season – but would prefer to see the 2020/21 season cancelled altogether.
The National League met yesterday to discuss the future of the season, with ‘Port Director Ian Kyle raising his concerns over the safety of players, staff and volunteers if the season was allowed to continue.
The Sandgrounders have already seen games called off due to positive Covid cases among players.
Dozens more games in the National leagues and in the EFL (English Football league) have also had to be axed due to Coronavirus cases in clubs.
Earlier this week, National League clubs including Southport FC were told that future funding for clubs would only be issued as loans and that grants would only be handed out in exceptional circumstances.
Last year the Government gave £10million to National League clubs to help them start the current season after the rapid onset of the second Covid-19 wave swiftly ended plans to admit fans to grounds.
A limited number of supporters were briefly allowed back into the Pure Stadium in Southport in December as cases in the area eased and the Liverpool City Region was placed under Tier 2 measures. But the new national lockdown saw fans once again asked to stay away.
The original £10m grant funding for clubs has now expired.
A total of £11m, part of the Government’s £300m rescue package for sport, is available to clubs to claim as loans over the next three months.
Yesterday’s National League Zoom meeting left clubs with three options.
Interim General Manager of The National League, Mark Ives, has requested each Member Club to provide views on three points:
- The operation of a Club Loan process.
- The operation of a National League Loan.
- A suspension to The National League 2020/21 season.
The purpose of feedback is to assist the Board in understanding views of all 66 Clubs. The Board will be meeting before the end of the week.
In a statement, Ian Kyle said: “As a club we have worked incredibly hard to make everywhere as safe as possible for everyone associated with the club and those visiting as evidenced by our being the first National League North club post COVID to host fans.
“Safety has been a constant concern, both in respect of the stadium, coach travel, and ensuring that grounds we visit are COVID safe.
“We have continued to date on the basis that we had the backing and support of the National League in that continual striving for safety.
“Unfortunately, the attitude shown towards the club by the National League through December and January have, rightly or wrongly, left us questioning this support.
“At the recent National League meeting, I tried to raise the issue of safety for our players, staff and volunteers but was informed that it was not the correct forum. I am not aware that a ‘correct’ Forum has to date been made available for this specific discussion. It is for these reasons, and not necessarily the loan/grant argument that we have voted option 3 ie to suspend.
“We have only voted option 3 because option 4 is not available ie to null and void the season.
“My view, and that of my fellow directors Steve and Liam, is that health and safety should be discussed before finances.”