Chorley part of 18-club campaign to play on after vote to scrap their season

Chorley (blue strip) in action against Southport
(photo: Stefan willoughby)Chorley (blue strip) in action against Southport
(photo: Stefan willoughby)
Chorley (blue strip) in action against Southport (photo: Stefan willoughby)
Chorley have joined 18 National League North and South clubs to continue with the 2020/21 season.

Both competitions were immediately declared null and void on Thursday evening, after clubs voted by 24-19 to scrap the campaign.

However, clubs who wish to play on have appealed to the National League to be allowed to do so, stating their case in an open letter to the league's acting general manager Mark Ives.

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They believe that clubs who desire to play on and battle for promotion to the National League should be allowed to do so, either in two regionalised competitions or by joining forces in one combined league.

The 18 clubs who have signed the letter argue they have an obligation to play on after investing significant sums in the season and accepting FA/National Lottery money.

Speaking to BBC Radio Lancashire, boss Jamie Vermiglio said: "I am absolutely gutted," he said. "I am gutted for the players and for the clubs that wanted to continue.

"I understand some of the other clubs and why they didn't want to continue.

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"From our point of view we wanted the season to continue because we felt we were in a position to do it.

"I think the disappointing thing for me is how it's all been handled. It's been absolutely atrocious.

"From the top level down to us, the communication or lack of it; the clarity on certain things - leaving clubs to make their own decisions.

"I will give you an example of that. We have committed to different fixtures, paying full wages for players, paying for the coaches and paying for everything else which comes with a matchday.

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"We have probably spent between £20,000 to £30,000 over the last three weeks for however this vote has been going, we are now up to £30,000 down."

The letter reads to the National league general manager read:

Dear Mr Ives,

Following the results of the voting on the National League resolutions dated 1 February 2021, we write to you on behalf of the clubs that voted to fulfil the 2020-21 National League North and South season.

We feel the options presented in the resolutions did not provide an alternative solution to a null and void scenario and the result of Resolution 3 was very closely divided with a very small majority determining that the season will be ended with immediate effect. However, as a league of members (66 clubs) the vote delivered a majority result in favour of continuing the season albeit you chose to adopt the four votes each rule for NLN and NLS as opposed to one each for the NL.

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We believe that the 19 clubs at Step 2 that wish to continue, should be afforded an opportunity to do so, with play-offs and promotion as per normal.

We believe the following reasons support the resumption of the 2020-21 National League North and South seasons:

Our feedback and experiences week to week leave us in little doubt that the majority of our communities and supporter base are under extreme strain within the current lockdown conditions. Looking forward to better times and more normality is a large part of keeping people positive. We believe that a null and void scenario would negatively impact the mental health of our supporters and communities.

Our supporters, season ticket holders and commercial partners have demonstrated a huge amount of goodwill and faith by retaining their season tickets and accepting that their interaction with their club will be remotely and digitally rather than what they signed up for and attending matches. A null and void season would require either substantial refunds or carrying over the commercial and ticketing revenue into next season. This would have a huge impact on future commercial revenues.

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With the outcome of the vote being null and void in Step 2, the ability to have promotion and relegation between Steps 1 and 2 is lost. Promotion and Relegation within the National League system is a fundamental value which the league has worked hard for over the years and which was the motivating driver in reaching a sporting conclusion to last season. We feel it important for our relationship with the EFL that both promotion and relegation be retained at Step 1 and Step 2.

Last year, although the clubs voted to curtail the season, the playoffs and automatic promotion places were sanctioned, and we believe a similar approach should be adopted this season to maintain the integrity of the overall competition.

All clubs have accepted financial support from the National Lottery for the months of October, November and December and also FA grant funding in order to prepare and proceed with league matches behind closed doors. Those conditions remain and we feel we have an obligation to proceed and complete the season having already accepted that funding.

We have all invested considerable sums, by entering into contracts and taking on liabilities on the basis the season would progress to a full conclusion whether behind closed doors or not. How are we expected to now reconcile this investment and commitment? Numerous clubs are entering dialogue with Sport England regarding grant and loan funding to continue operating and are exploring every option to fulfil this season.

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In summary, we respectfully request that the league strongly consider that the two divisions at Step 2 continue playing their seasons, either separately or as one.

We believe that this is in the best interests of all National League members allowing the league to cater to the needs and drivers of all clubs in a sympathetic manner, allowing those who wish to continue to do so, and those who cannot or do not wish to continue to end their season.

Promotion and relegation can be maintained between the National League and National League North and South in order to recover a full National League of 24 clubs next season, as well as maintaining the integrity of our relationship with the EFL.