Hawks’ league rivals condemn ‘incompetent leadership of the National League’ after sixth tier merger proposal is thrown out

One of Hawks’ South rivals has condemned the ‘incompetent leadership of the National League’ after proposals for some clubs to be allowed to complete 2020/21 were thrown out by the FA.

Sunday, 14th March 2021, 2:39 pm
Wes Fogden, now at Dorking, is tackled during Hawks' win at the Surrey club in March 2020. Dorking have led the criticism of the National League after a proposal to complete the 2020/21 season was thrown out. Picture: Kieron Louloudis

The governing body gave short shrift to a remarkable plan to merge the South and North clubs that wanted to carry on playing into one division after the league declared the sixth tier seasons null and void almost a month ago.

Unde the proposal, those clubs keen to finish the campaign would all start with at least 20 points and would play each other once. There would be two promotions - one automatically and one via a play-off.

While Hawks voted to continue playing when clubs were asked to vote in early February, they subsequently decided NOT to take part in the proposed merger division.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Others - such as Dorking Wanderers and Gloucester City, top of the South and North divisions at the time of null of voiding - were understandably keen to continue.

So, too, were Welling United, even though they were bottom of the South table.

Dorking owner/manager Marc White has been very vocal throughout the funding crisis that led to the 2020/21 season being scrapped - little wonder given his club’s position.

His club released a strongly-worded statement that was highly critical of the National League board for presiding over an ‘entire mess.’

‘Given the great deal of effort by the National League to achieve elite status for its divisions, and (in addition) given the willing acceptance of National Lottery funding in order to secure the commencement of the playing season, it is astonishing that any type of governance process can lead to this outcome being attained,’ the Dorking statement read.

‘The National League board and executive management are fully responsible for the entire mess that has engulfed all their members clubs.

‘The National League Executive, at the height of the dispute, took the horrific decision to put a black and white vote in front of clubs regarding whether they wished to continue or not continue, with full consideration for those that were concerned about their financial security. However, their acumen prevented them from considering the impact of those other clubs that for differing reasons wanted to continue.

‘While 31 clubs voted to axe the season and 32 were in favour of continuing, the voting system included a number of resolutions, the first of which asked clubs whether they wished to vote as one or as separate levels (the National League clubs voting as step one and North and South teams as step two).

‘This first resolution was heavily weighted in favour of the top flight, with each club getting a vote each while the North and South would both be represented by four votes apiece.

"The resolutions put to clubs included a vote on changing constitutional voting structure. By doing so the league sought to claim that a vote could be democratic across clubs, yet strangely created a vote whereby the voting of one division could effectively close down the other,’ the Wanderers statement continued.

‘It is important to remember that the National League South had a strong majority of clubs that wished to complete the season (12-9). The restructuring of the vote also enabled step one clubs to essentially vote for no relegation, yet the National League will use words such as 'integrity' in their press releases.

‘The resolutions were signed off by a National League Board, of which the majority are owners and/or chairman of National League step one clubs.’

White - whose table-topping squad included ex-Hawks Ed Harris, Jason Prior, Alfie Rutherford and Wes Fogden - also said the National League made little effort to help the clubs who wanted to carry on.

‘In the subsequent four weeks National League Officials offered no direction in finding a working solution and left the entire process of finding a solution to the clubs that wanted to carry on, safely in the knowledge that this would be a protracted process and one that would by pure virtue make finding a solution that was approvable more unlikely.

‘In four weeks, National League officials have not formally communicated once to those clubs who wanted to continue, and despite various zoom calls organised by clubs they only attended on one occasion and this was for only 15 minutes.’

The statement continued: ‘It is important for all clubs to understand that the incompetent leadership of the National League has in one way or another caused all clubs to be placed into stressful and difficult circumstances, and we as a club now call for all National League member clubs and their supporters to come together to recognise this fact.

‘In summary, with good strategical leadership the league could have comfortably created scenarios that protected all their members clubs.

‘It was crucial to protect both those clubs that could not continue, and those that also could.’

While Hawks placed their squad on furlough weeks ago, Dorking are one of a handful of clubs who have carried on playing friendlies in a bid to stay match fit should the season have restarted.

Rutherford netted twice in last Thursday’s 3-0 win over a Crawley Town XI that included reality TV star Mark Wright, while ex-Pompey midfielder Jamie O’Hara featured in both games having signed for the club in January.

The National League, meanwhile, still face difficult decisions in the weeks ahead.

Top flight is currently one club short following Macclesfield Town’s demise last summer, so the league must decide whether to promote a club to fill that space. If so, then which one?

Also, they need to decide how to deal with Dover Athletic who have been refusing to fulfil fixtures. The Kent club last played in the league on January 20.

Dover’s chairman is Jim Parmenter, who was on the National League board until he resigned in early February.