‘I feel helpless and unprotected – if we play behind closed doors at National League level then bankruptcy is assured for most clubs’

A National League club chairman has called on his competition’s board members to be ‘very transparent’ and cancel any plans to stage the end-of-season play-offs.

Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 8:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 8:26 pm
Hawks and Weymouth have said they are happy to take part in the NL South play-offs. Photo by Dave Haines.

The NL board met yesterday to discuss the option of potentially holding play-offs in their three divisions - the top flight and South and North.

But it is believed no formal decision will be made until they hear whether the EFL is committed to resuming the 2019/20 season at some point.

In the NL top flight, Yeovil Town and Notts County have declared they want to take part in the play-offs ‘if safe to do so.’

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Hawks and Weymouth are two South clubs who have also publicly said they will compete.

But Danny Hunter, the chairman of NL club Boreham Wood, believes there is not only no chance of the play-offs taking place, but virtually no chance of ANY non-league football for the rest of this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘In truth, our situation is perhaps going to be a whole lot worse than I or anyone could have budgeted for just three or four weeks ago,’ he said.

‘I cannot see how any non-league football can start again in England. It’s just not going to happen when we have the highest death toll in Europe and still have days of 700 plus people losing their lives.

‘I’ve got absolutely no idea how I can safely get our stadium and facility, two teams and match officials on a pitch, while getting two sets of supporters safely into the ground anytime soon, let alone stage a contact sport with players not able to maintain social distancing rules anytime in 2020.

‘Realistically, I think football for all things Boreham Wood in 2020, is over. Let’s hope I’m wrong, though I don’t think I am.

‘I suppose I could pretend that non-league will be back by August, September or October, a bit like the National League Board and some of the member clubs are doing, but that’s not going to help us.

‘I have sleepless nights in trying to solve the club’s problems, in regards to what is at present an unsolvable pandemic conundrum. No matter what way I look, no matter how I interpret the government guidelines, I just cannot see how any football at our level in 2020 will be possible until a vaccine is found.

‘I’m being transparent and honest with everyone in regard to my thinking and no doubt I’ll get some stick for this. But by going on the record now, and saying that the game we all love is not coming to our town, to our stadium or I feel to any National League club anytime soon, will give me a chance to re-budget quickly based on what we know today, and not what we perhaps thought a month ago.’

Hunter added: ‘Every league, every club owner, every player and every football fan at all levels is of course missing the game so much.

‘At our level I feel helpless and unprotected, because we know having no supporters in our stadiums simply equates to no football being played in 2020. Why? Because every owner or chairman will tell you, if we play behind closed doors at National League level then bankruptcy is assured for most clubs, so that option cannot happen.

‘The reality for our football club is now very, very clear – the league board should just make a decision based on them having been elected by us to lead us. They don’t need me to tell them I cannot possibly plan for play offs just because they all wish it.

‘The administrators at the top of non-league now need to be very transparent with the clubs and the die-hard supporters and tell them the truth that we’re not coming back anytime soon.

‘Then everyone can focus on ‘operation survival’ and the facts are that, for most of us, we have no income whatsoever coming into our clubs.

‘So it’s going to be the owners like myself who have other successful companies, or clubs who have outside benefactors, who will keep non-league afloat.

‘It certainly will not be league boards or administrators.’

The NL are still hoping to promote two clubs to the EFL, but if the latter cannot complete their season only one - to replace Bury - will probably go up.

NL clubs are to be asked how they wish to bring the season to a close, with null and void still an option.

Hawks could well win promotion if a points-per-game methodology is used, as they currently lie second behind Wealdstone. But if play-offs don’t take place, the league must decide whether to automatically promote Hawks or just promote Wealdstone.