Clubs have a moral duty to complete 2020/21 season, say Chorley's derby rivals AFC Fylde.

National League clubs have a moral obligation to fulfil the 2020/21 season, that is the view of Chorley's derby rivals AFC Fylde.

Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 8:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 9:55 am
Match action from Chorley's game against AFC Fylde at Victory Park earlier this season (photo: Stefan Willoughby)

The Coasters have come out in agreement with the Magpies, who at the weekend described cancelling the 2020/21 season now as inexcusable.

And Fylde believe that "throwing in the towel now will undoubtedly see our elite status brought into question".

Uncertainty around the future of the campaign arose after it was suspended for two weeks last month.

That suspension is set to end this weekend, with games scheduled to go-ahead.

However, clubs have been given 28 days to vote on whether the season should be scrapped or not, with a majority of clubs believed to be in favour of declaring it null and void.

The situation has arisen over the level of funding available to clubs to help them finish the season.

Since football reconvened due to the Covid-19 pandemic, games at elite level have gone ahead behind closed doors with the Government providing funds to cover the shortfall in matchday takings.

However, while the initial £10m was handed to clubs as grants, the next £11m will be administered as loans, something which clubs have deemed unacceptable.

But Fylde, like Chorley, are one of the clubs who will be voting to continue this season.

They believe the loans issued are on extremely favourable terms and are urging all fellow clubs to continue to fulfil their fixtures this season.

A club statement said: "The National League presented us with a set of resolutions for us to vote on continuing the 2020/21 season. How we act and what we decide will have a massive impact on our future; and how we are indeed viewed both now and moving forward by our footballing peers.

"For clarity, AFC Fylde will vote to continue playing the 2020/21 season. Having received public funds to cover loss of gate revenue in the first part of the season, we are of the opinion that we have a moral obligation to our fans and community to continue.

"While we are all in acknowledgement that the country remains a fragile place, for many, football provides our only release. We firmly believe it is our duty, as a football club that sits at the heart of its community, to preserve that release.

"Last week we circulated information to fellow National League North members regarding the availability of lateral flow testing and how it has now become very affordable. Rapid testing programmes are not perfect but provide a very useful tool in detecting infection in asymptomatic individuals.

"The costs are now down to £5.25 per test, and because of that we are testing twice a week, so for 30 players and staff it’s £315. Clubs do not need to test twice a week - that decision lies entirely with the football club - but once a week will cost £157.50.

"We also suggested that it would not be unreasonable to ask the players to pay/donate themselves if clubs are really struggling. Since that time, in fact early this morning, Sport England have now verbally given assurances that they will be paying for these tests in the future.

"In Friday’s meeting, Sport England made it clear that a combination of grants and loans could be obtained. Those clubs who could justify grants would be able to access them, as a grant or potential hybrid type model.

"The terms of the loan are extremely favourable: 20 years term, 2% interest and a four-year payment holiday. With this on the table, we urge all clubs to make their case to enable them to receive a grant, loan or a combination of the two.

"The burning question that Sport England needed to answer, was whether the Sports Winter Package Programme could be used to pay for players' wages. This has since been clarified, with Sports England confirming that funds could be used for this reason.

"To throw the towel in at this stage, will undoubtedly see our elite status brought into question. Without this status, clubs wouldn’t have received the first £10,000,000 grant, nor would we be offered the very attractive terms for the remainder of the season. You only have to look at Steps 3-6 where 850 clubs are being offered £10,000,000 between them for the whole season. Simple maths tell you that it’s £11,600 a club or thereabouts, while we have so far received a minimum £90,000 per club for just three months. To reiterate, we must all fight to retain ‘elite’ status in order for us to be taken seriously as a professional football division.

"Another factor to consider is our responsibility to do everything possible to continue. All clubs, big and small, have ambitions. If not, then why are we here? We, as a football club, have an ambition to win and to progress. We refuse to lie down because another obstacle has presented itself. It is our belief that all of us have a responsibility to our fans, sponsors and local communities.

"We have been united throughout this pandemic, soldiering on through challenging times. There is an amount of pride and satisfaction in overcoming obstacles and achieving what seemed impossible at the time. If this marks the end of the road, will everyone be able to ask themselves did they really do everything they could to make this work?"