• Callum Pattison

National League: Multiple clubs fined

The National League released a statement on Friday evening regarding the outcome of club charges. In total, 18 clubs across the 3 National League divisions have been handed punishments.

To begin with, National League outfit Dover Athletic have been deemed guilty of breaching Rule 8.39 a total of 4 times for failing to meet fixture obligations in February. They have been ordered to pay a fine of £40,000 and additionally, they will suffer a 12 point deduction for the beginning of the 2021/22 season.

In addition, 16 Member Clubs across the National League North and South (Step 2) are also guilty of breaching Rule 8.39 for failing to meet fixture obligations. The fines for these clubs will range from £1,400 to £8,000 as well as receiving a suspended points deduction for the 2021/22 season.

Kings Lynn Town and Southport have also been found guilty by an Independent Panel of a breach of The National League's Covid-19 protocols.

The reality

The reality of non-league football is that there is not much money out there. Excluding a small handful of clubs at this level, the majority of clubs are operating on a small budget which has to be dealt with extremely carefully.

Considering a lot of these clubs are already cash-strapped as it is, further fines are just going to leave clubs in further financial trouble.

The reasoning behind clubs refusing to fulfil some fixtures was quite simple. With the pandemic meaning games at this level would remain behind closed doors, clubs would simply be losing money through costs such as transportation, player wages, accommodation etc.

With no money being gained through matchday sales such as ticket receipts and bar sales, how are clubs supposed to afford to keep operating as normal? Especially considering, at this level of football, the main source of income for the majority of clubs is matchday revenue.

So, the whole point of refusing to play games was to try and save money for clubs who have little money to begin with.

Lots of clubs have been punished with these fines. Gateshead are one of these clubs who have been fined £1,400 as well as a suspended two-point deduction which will be applied to the 2021/22 season if there are any more breaches by the club. As a Gateshead supporter, this stings a lot.

Dover Athletic are a prime example as well. Their club announced that they would no longer be completing any of their fixtures due to the financial impact that they would suffer if they were to continue to play games behind closed doors. As of last night, it was confirmed by The National League that they have been fined £40,000. That feels like a low-blow for a club that are already struggling.

Dover Chairman Jim Parmenter said last month that the whole reason for them refusing to play was because no support for clubs such as them had been made available.

"Unfortunately no support has been forthcoming, so it is with deepest regret that the club must now furlough all staff and players and reduce operations to a bare minimum.

"For 15 years, I have run the club without debt and I do not intend to change that now.

"The club will be unable to fulfil further National League fixtures until appropriate funding is made available," Parmenter said.

What now?

Image credit: Dover Athletic FC

The National League (Step 1) will continue until the season has been completed. The National League North and South seasons (Step 2) have been null and voided - which makes it even more confusing in regards to why clubs have been fined for not completing fixtures in a season that was not completed.

There is potential there for clubs at this level to pull together and fight this. The way the whole situation has be dealt with has been astonishing. Clubs have been left in the dark, fines dished out for clubs already in financial trouble and clubs not receiving any kind of proper financial support and much more.

Non-league football is the heartbeat of English football. It is a very common place for young footballers to get their start in the game as well as being an integral part of hundreds of communities across the country. That should be acknowledged more and therefore, non-league clubs should be given a lot more support and backing by the powers in charge when it comes to operating in times such as right now due to the pandemic.

Whether or not clubs come together to fight against what has happened remains to be seen. If it were to come to that, it shouldn't be deemed as a surprise. There have been rumblings of a potential vote of no confidence so it will be interesting to see if it comes to that.

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