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Grimsby Town owner voices National League concern and calls for change

Grimsby Town owner Jason Stockwood voices a National League concern that has been echoed by many and also calls for change.

The Mariners chairman and joint majority shareholder has called for tighter financial restraints to protect against ‘inequality’ outside of the EFL.

He reckons that his fellow rivals have been splashing the cash to try and breaking their way into League Two, which is especially made harder with only two promotion places.

There are stringent rules surrounding spending limits in the league that Grimsby have just got relegated from, and those aren’t the same for those within the non league pyramid.

As we have seen, the likes of Wrexham and Stockport County have brought in some key players, both of which, goal-machine Paul Mullin and Trotters captain Antoni Sarcevic, have just departed teams that won promotion last season, Cambridge United and Bolton Wanderers.

They both have invested huge sums of cash for the 2021/22 campaign to finally get them back into the EFL after a huge amount of years out of it.

Wrexham saw the takeover of Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney while Stockport have also spent a large amount.

The Hatters have also brought in Hartlepool United boss Dave Challinor, months after he guided them through the playoffs before winning the final at Ashton Gate.

No we are seeing a common theme over the last few years, with the likes of Salford City also spending their the non league level, only to seemingly finding themselves stuck in League Two for the time being, Grimsby’s Jason Stockwood has voiced concerns about the competitive balance in the National League.

“I’m personally delighted about the competitive nature of the National League this year, with a number of “big” clubs vying for promotion out of what is the fifth tier of English football,” he wrote in his latest Guardian column.

“The gamble which the Deadpool and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia stars are taking in the National League, asking fans to “dream big” and think of the Premier League as a target, is not dissimilar to what is happening with the 24 teams in the Championship. A number of clubs are looking to benefactors to sustain financial losses while helping them win promotion – all the while knowing that only three clubs can be successful.

“The analogy with the Championship breaks down quickly though. No one buys into a club in the National League motivated by financial returns: it has to be about taking the club and community on a journey, and for that, I admire what is happening at clubs like Wrexham and Stockport County.

“Both clubs have owners who are taking significant financial and reputational risks to awaken “sleeping giants”: in Stockport’s case, they were bought by property entrepreneur Mark Stott in January 2020. I believe they want the best for the clubs and communities; these are not the kind of opaque international investors who use brokers to get them through the owners’ and directors’ test on moral and financial suitability.

“What worries me is the growing financial inequality that is becoming embedded in English football. Grimsby Town will make a significant loss this year. While budgets at our level are not officially declared, we know we are “competitive” – and we know that four or five of our peers are spending significantly more than us to get into the Football League.

“While we can boast nearly full-house attendances and improved performances at Grimsby, we are investing in the long-term infrastructure and culture of the club, and as a result, it’s likely our financial losses will be worse next year. The second-year after you drop out of the league, you lose all support payments from the EFL. For most owners at this level, there is an acceptance that the payoffs lie somewhere other than the balance sheet: most are more interested in helping our community redefine its future.

“That inequality should exist in football or society at large is neither controversial nor problematic in itself. Natural endowments and capabilities mean advantages play out in all walks of life. The issue I and many others have with inequality is when it is patently unfair.

“While I love the excitement that glamorous owners bring to football, there needs to be strong financial parameters enforced around lower-league clubs, particularly around the pay structures and bonuses for each division. Clubs being able to underwrite big losses is a gamble that often does not pay off over time.

“It also creates unrealistic expectations among fans of clubs about the kinds of players they can attract, and leads to wage inflation for the whole league. This kind of market distortion is bad for the football pyramid as a whole.”

SEE MORE: Chesterfield manager writes to National League urging for new rule ahead of 2021/22 season

Twitter users reacted as the Grimsby Town owner voices his National League concern and calls for change…

@dannyc1402: Doesn’t FFP apply in NL from next season? I could be wrong but I’m sure I read that it will be introduced from 22-23 season

@richymills: yep, the NL and NLS/N teams voted for it at the last AGM so it should be happening next season

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