Decision time for National League clubs

Plainmoor’s Torbay Weekly Stand

Plainmoor’s Torbay Weekly Stand - Credit: Archant

Suspending the National League season, which would hang a cloud over Torquay United’s drive to win promotion back to the Football League, is being seen as a last resort as clubs grapple with a new funding crisis.  

All 67 NL clubs have now been circulated with three options by the League Board, and a decision on the way forward is expected within a few days.  

A £10 million first package of grants, sponsored by the Government but drawn from the National Lottery, covered only the first three months of the season.  

Now the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is offering a second round of money, but in loans, which clubs say they cannot afford to take on, not grants.  

The NL Board’s three options are:  
1 - Clubs to accept loans direct, to be paid back over 10 years at 2% interest;  
2 - The League to take on the loan and then pass money on to clubs who would pay it back in future or through reduced central share payments;  
3 - Suspend the season.  

The strongest opposition to the Government loan option is coming from NL North and South clubs, although there has been some speculation that teams struggling against relegation or with the most Covid-19 postponements might also prefer a suspension of action.  

But two major factors may persuade a majority of clubs, especially in the NL Premier, to accept one of the loan offers.  

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One, few want to jeopardise the league’s ‘Elite’ status in English football and, second and most important, no one wants to threaten the hard-won two-up-two-down promotion and relegation with the EFL’s League Two.  

A suspension of the National League would not go down well with the EFL.  

While a decision is being thrashed out, clubs are being instructed at least to fulfil their fixtures over the next week, which includes key games for NL leaders Torquay away to Notts County this Saturday and home to Sutton United next Tuesday (7pm).