Notts County boss Neal Ardley slams National League rumours, following news that fans will not be allowed to enter stadiums for quite some time yet.
It’s set to be a crucial two days for the top tier of non league football with clubs divided over whether they should start without fans.
The league season was set to begin on the 3rd of October, however after Tuesday’s announcement from the government, that is now put into doubt.
Meetings are taking place over the next few days between some of clubs. The FA and the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) continue to discuss how clubs could be supported going forward. The National League Board also meets on Thursday.
There is strong and widespread calls from much of the football community from fans to Premier League managers for more money to be handed out to lower league clubs, EFL through to non league in order for them to not just get 2020/21 season completed, but to make sure they survive and avoid going under.
Dover Athletic are one of those clubs, with their chairman stating they have two weeks to survive. More can be read on that HERE.
Clubs at National League, North and South division are waiting to see if the start to the season will be delayed after the government announced no fans will be allowed back into stadiums while coronavirus cases continue to soar.
There have been rumours that the National League will now halt the start to the season until supporters can safely return.
This is what Magpies boss Neal Ardley has to say to the media about the worrying situation, stating more needs to be done. The full transcript has been published by Nottingham Post.
There have been suggestions and rumours that the National League will delay the start to the season, do you agree with that?
“Absolutely not. The government have made it quite clear this is not a two-week job.
“If they (the League) want to delay it, then why are they doing it? Are they going to give the government three weeks more to see if they will then allow fans back in?
“I don’t understand what the delay is for.
“Ultimately, we are six weeks behind on our season already and the government have said quite clearly these restrictions could be up to six months.
“We are now entering flu and cold season, it’s only going to get tougher.
“There were two things I took out of Boris Johnson’s speech.
“One is that this could be for six months which takes away any suggestion of the league merely being delayed. It’s almost a write-off of the whole season.
“So that word delay does not count. Secondly, the government said they would be talking to sporting authorities into how they can support clubs.
“That gives us a glimmer of hope that there might be some support coming.
“I am adamant that people can think outside the box and get the house in order regarding the streaming of games and charging fans.
“Fans will support that, they will want to watch their team. If that’s the way they have to watch it, they will support their club.
“I spoke to Harrogate about it and they said they can take good money from it.
“You could add that to some help from the government.
“We can’t fold and say we haven’t got what we wanted, the season is over.
“What sort of mentality is that? We have to come together and find a way.
“Too many clubs at the moment are just saying that’s it, I am not willing to play.
“That’s the worst case scenario for everybody.
“There’s players on wages. There’s no furlough scheme. It’s just nonsense. You’re going to be restricting trade.
“The leagues below the National League have started. The leagues above us have started.
“There’s only three leagues in the middle that haven’t. If they (the league) say we are not willing to let them start then it’s a restriction of trade. It’s ludicrous.”
“The season lasts seven and a half months. The government are saying this could be six months.
“Where’s the delay? What are we going to do? Play 46 games in six weeks?
“If we decide to not play without fans we are effectively cancelling the season and we are then putting everybody in the National League, North and South out of work.
What ramifications would that have if it was cancelled?
“There would be no football club. We are having a tough time and I am sure the chairmen are having a tough time.
“Everybody is struggling through this. We all are. People are losing their loved ones which is most important.
“People are losing their livelihoods which is second most important.
“But there has got to be a way to play football and find solutions to struggle through this period.
“We can’t just give up and say that’s it. It’s not a delay. It’s six months potentially.
Are Notts one of the clubs who have voiced their concerns to the National League to say it must start?
“I’ve no idea.
“The owners and Jason Turner (CEO) had a board meeting on Tuesday which was scheduled anyway.
“I am sure it was discussed in there. I asked a question yesterday in a managers’ meeting: what is the (league’s ) plan B if fans aren’t allowed back in?
“The response I got yesterday was there isn’t one.
“We can all see what is coming around the corner. I’ve said it for a number of weeks now.
“While I want the fans in, it’s going to be very difficult to get them in during these tighter restrictions.
“By then we should have been thinking of solutions to keep the leagues going.”
Are you frustrated at some of the mixed messages coming out from the government given people can still go to pubs etc?
“I don’t think football fans coming into the stadium is the problem.
“It’s not that they don’t trust Notts County or they don’t trust Spurs for instance.
“But whether it be 5,000, 10,000 or however many are allowed to go to a game, it’s the travelling on public transport, you’ve got people who will want to go for a pint.
“You are going to have different households mixing together. It’s very difficult and the government are caught between a rock and a hard place.
“It’s the outside bit of the stadium that nobody has control of.
“If the government turn round and say we understand we are not allowing fans back so we will try to support you to this tune, then the leagues have to find the rest.
“We have to find a solution. All the leagues above us are playing and those below us are playing.
“There are three leagues stuck in the middle being told no.”
Are you disappointed with the National League in that respect?
“At this precise moment, I am bereft by where it is going and by the leadership.
“They need to be strong and find solutions. That’s what leaders do.
“I hope the people at the top of the league find them. I hope they don’t get bullied by people who just don’t want to play.
“We need to think outside the box and solve problems.
“You can’t have one club say we can’t do this and the other 22/23 follow suit.
“If you have a streaming service and you can charge £10, fans will want to back that if the home team gets all the income.
“Let’s say 800 of them buy it. There might have only been 400 at the game.
“I can’t understand why that’s not a solution while we battle through this.
“The league has to start. The alternative is incomprehensible.”
FA statement following the government’s latest Covid-19 measures
We understand the Government’s decision, as the health of the nation is the priority. However, it is important to recognise that the impact on football will be huge.
Clubs up and down the country are really struggling, and many will have been looking forward to crowds coming back in order to provide much-needed income during these difficult times. Many, at all levels of the game, are battling to survive.
We welcome the Government’s commitment to provide financial support to clubs and will continue to work together on a return of crowds as soon as it’s safe to do so.
We also welcome the continuation of the grassroots game, and the elite game behind closed doors, to help support the physical and mental wellbeing of millions of players across the country, with outdoor exercise more important now than ever.
DCMS have confirmed to the Non League Paper there are no changes to the current policy of allowing clubs at Steps 3 and below to continue admitting limited numbers of socially distanced fans.