National League clubs must respect integrity of this season, says Chorley FC

Chorley Football Club insist it will be "inexcusable" if the 2020/21 National League North and South seasons do not reach a conclusion

Monday, 1st February 2021, 8:32 am
Updated Monday, 1st February 2021, 8:36 am
Chorley in action during the National League North 2020/21 season

The campaign is currently in the middle of a two week suspension due to discontent over funding.

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.

The decision was taken at a National League board meeting a week last Friday after a review of feedback from clubs.

National League clubs across all three divisions, including the Premier Division, are expected to be offered the chance to decide what happens to the rest of the 2020-21 season on Monday.

Clubs have been told the £11m due to cover the cost of matches from January to March will be in the form of loans, which has already been deemed unacceptable by a majority of clubs in National League North and South.

However, Chorley believe that having been granted elite status, which has allowed all three divisions in the National League to continue amid the Covid-19 pandemic, clubs need to respect the integrity and outcome of the current season.

A club statement released over the weekend said: "There have been several press releases over the last few days concerning funding for National League clubs while playing behind closed doors.

"On behalf of Chorley Football Club, we are taking this opportunity to put our loyal supporters in the picture and provide information on funding received to date, as well as proposed funding to allow clubs to complete the 2020/21 season.

"As a club we have battled long and hard to get to the position we have and while last season’s relegation was a disappointment it also taught us several lessons and gave us a renewed desire to return to the National League at the earliest opportunity.

"We feel privileged to have be granted elite status as a club playing in the National League North and extremely grateful for the grant funding we have received to date from the National Lottery, the Football Foundation, the National League and Chorley Borough Council.

"This has allowed us to continue to play 2020/21 behind closed doors, which hopefully you will agree has become one of the most memorable in the club’s history, albeit tinged with sadness that our supporters couldn’t share in person with us; the games really aren’t the same without you.

Having been granted the status of an elite club, it is our opinion that we need to act as such and respect the integrity and outcome of the current season. With the utmost appreciation we will be applying to Sport England for the loans being made available to help us finish this season with pride that we are part of great competition. We’re looking to provide something positive to our local communities through results on the pitch and the work carried out by our community foundation off it in this most difficult of times.

"Of course there is the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we have worked tirelessly over the last six months to introduce robust protocols to mitigate all the risks associated with a team sport in such times. The club have strict rules in place for player & staff behaviour both at the club and at home.

"We have a strong screening process in place along with regular testing and it is a testament to these processes that we have recorded zero positive test results across the hundreds we have carried out.

"As for funding, there is no hiding the fact we have exceeded our usual haul of FA Cup prize money. However, as with any season, this is never budgeted for, so anything gained from runs in the FA Cup and FA Trophy comes as a bonus.

"This year has had a completely different outcome than any the club has experienced and the board have taken a decision the money gained must be used to pay off historical debts and cover losses caused by the curtailment of last season – along with losses incurred by the closure of the social club.

"Operationally to date we have received £90k in National Lottery grant funding to cover the months of October, November and December, on the understanding that this was to be reviewed for January onwards. While this is shy of our costs when coupled with the loyal backing of our season ticket holders, supporters and sponsors along with other initiatives such as Chorley Picks, we have managed to operate to the tight budget we set in the summer.

"This also formed our decision to begin the season. There is now additional funding available from the Winter Sports Survival Fund which is available through Sport England on favourable terms, similar to the various Bounce Back loan schemes that many businesses have taken out to help get through this period. Given the availability of this funding it is our belief that to not finish the season would be inexcusable.

"Our hope is other clubs across all three divisions of The National League see fit to share our outlook and we will actively be lobbying clubs to follow this lead.

"Whatever happens, we send our very best wishes to all our supporters during this difficult period."