Hawks ‘cut their cloth accordingly’ in wake of National League’s funding crisis

Hawks have ‘cut their cloth accordingly’ in the wake of the National League’s funding crisis.

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 1:47 pm
Hawks' Roarie Deacon in action during last weekend's FA Trophy tie against Notts County. Pic: Daniel Haswell/SPP

But CEO Stuart Munro is still all too aware the decision on whether the club complete their South season is ‘out of our ownhands.’

The club are due to host Ebbsfleet United this weekend in what will be only their 14th league game of the season.

It could conceivably be their last at Westleigh Park in 2020/21 as clubs vote on whether they want to carry on playing after being told they must take out loans rather than accept Government grants.

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Tonbridge Angels (blue) - seen here in FA Cup action against Bradford City at their Longmead Stadium ground last November - have told the National League they will be insolvent by the end of this month. Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images.

After this weekend, Hawks are due at Chippenham next Tuesday and Chelmsford the following Saturday. But the Wiltshire club are currently refusing to play until the funding issue is resolved, while the result of the vote could be known by the time Hawks are due to travel to Essex on February 20.

‘I think the voting will be very tight in the South division one way or the other,’ Munro told The News.

‘We want to carry on but the decision could be taken out of our own hands, and we won’t be able to do anything about that.

‘We will have to accept the result of the vote whether we like it or not.’

Alresford (green shirts) were top of the Wessex Premier Division in March 2020 and eyeing promotion to the Southern League when the FA null and voided the season. Picture: Keith Woodland

Munro is feeling a distinct case of deja vu. This time last year he was chairman at Alresford Town who were top of the Wessex League Premier Division and eyeing a promotion to the Southern League for the first time.

The pandemic slammed the door shut on those ambitions, with the FA controversially null and voiding the 2019/20 season at steps 3-6 of the non-league pyramid.’

‘I had the same thing last year at Alresford,’ he recalled. ‘I didn’t like the decision made, I didn’t agree with it, but I had to accept it.’

Munro resigned his post at Arlebury Park shortly after the null and voiding and, as a result of his long-standing friendship with Hawks boss Paul Doswell, was quickly appointed to his role at Westleigh Park.

Hawks have voted to carry on playing but some clubs in the South division are desperate to stop, citing potential financial woes if they are forced to carry on.

A handful of South and North division chairmen and managers have been very vocal one way or the other.

Hawks have refused to get involved, apart from issuing a statement saying they are happy to carry on with the season.

‘There’s too many toxic comments being made and I don’t like seeing managers and chairmen criticising other clubs and not respecting their agendas,’ said Munro.

‘We can only control what happens at Havant & Waterlooville Football Club.

‘We want to carry on, but we can’t control what others in the National League want to do.’

Like almost every other National League club, Hawks would not have started the season in early October - triggering players’ contracts as soon as the first ball was kicked - if they knew that grant money would be withdrawn after only three months of an eight-month campaign.

‘There was nothing in writing but there was a presumption grants would continue,’ Munro remarked.

‘We were told grants for the first three months and then it would be reviewed.

‘But things got worse (regarding national Covid infection rates) in November and December and we expected the grants to continue.

‘We would not have started the season if we knew the grants would stop in December.

‘The alarm bells were starting to ring in November and December so we adjusted accordingly, we have changed our finances accordingly.’

Hawks banked £90,000 of National Lottery money over the first three months of 2020/21, and the CEO added: ‘We were very grateful to the Government for the grant money, we have said that before.

‘Did we think we had a fair share? No we didn’t. It didn’t really cover all our costs but we made it work for ourselves, and we would have made it work in January, February and March as well.

‘It’s going to be difficult if we carry on but, as I say, we have cut our cloth accordingly. We have looked at the figures and will make it work.

‘It’s not just budgeting until May. What happens if the fans aren’t allowed back in by August?

‘At the moment we are planning for Ebbsfleet on Saturday. That’s as far as we can plan.’

The first national lockdown was imposed on March 23 last year; Munro is possibly not alone when he says he didn’t expect the crisis to last as long it is has.

‘I thought we would be in a better position by the end of the year (2020). I thought the country would be in a better position, I thought football would be in a better position,’ he said.

‘Perhaps I was a bit naive, like a lot of people were.

‘Dos asked me to get involved (last spring) and it was an ideal opportunity at a higher level.

‘We didn’t think we would still be having these problems a year later.’

Munro declared himself ‘very pleased’ that from next Monday, February 15, the National League are paying for all clubs’ players and staff to be tested twice a week.

How long the season will have left after that date is another matter entirely.

‘It was never a finance matter for us,’ Munro said. ‘Covid had ripped through the club, a lot of people were seriously ill, including myself, and we needed a break.

‘I wrote to the National League saying they should be offering free testing, so this is a step in the right direction.

‘We do feel it’s a bit safer now around the club and in Havant in general, some people at the club have already been vaccinated.

‘It wasn’t a good environment before.’

At present, Bath City, Slough Town, Chippenham and Dulwich Hamlet are refusing to play South division games.

Another club, Tonbridge Angels, have also informed the league that they will ‘find itself insolvent by the end of the month.’

National League rule 13.A.1 states that any club declaring themselves insolvent in mid-season shall be deducted 10

points.

Rule 39.1 also says the league ‘has the right not to make any payments from central funding to clubs who have declared themselves insolvent.’

An Angels statement said: ‘The only clear direction would seem to be to bring the campaign to an end.

‘The only way suspension of the competition can happen would appear to be if enough clubs vote for that to occur although that outcome is by no means certain.

‘If the vote goes in favour of continuing the competition then under league rules we have to carry on playing.

‘Some clubs have threatened to stop playing - indeed some didn't fulfil fixtures last Saturday - but, disgracefully, the National League warned clubs who refused to play that they would impose sanctions despite the dire financial situation that they, the clubs, find themselves in.’

This is correct, with Kettering Town chairman David Mahoney confirming this week that his club have been charged by the National League for failing to play last weekend’s North game against Chester.

The Angels statement continued: ‘How would Tonbridge Angels carry on playing? We would be forced to SEVERELY cut the playing budget, place those 1st team players who couldn't manage that financial restriction on to furlough, and basically play 'scratch' sides.

‘If there is no relegation from National North and South there would be nothing to lose.’

If the FA decide to once again null and void steps 3-6 - as looks increasingly likely - there would be no promotion from the Southern League into the National League South and, it follows, no relegation either.

An FA decision is expected once Prime Minister Boris Johnson lays out his roadmap to exiting the current national lockdown on February 22.

‘Despite the logic of deliberately playing a weakened side to see out the 2020/21 season, there is again a question as to whether this would be against league rules,’ the Angels statement continued.

‘There has been no additional guidance from the National League over this.’