Bishop’s Cleeve’s club secretary Nigel Green claims that the club are all for the Hellenic Premier Division to continue after the lockdown ends, however the club is wary that the FA committee may not feel the same.
After the recent announcement that the National League North and South are to be null-and-voided after a 24-19 club vote in favour of ceasing the season, the debate has started of whether steps 3 and below of the football pyramid will follow the same path.
The FA have been providing weekly bulletins to all clubs in Steps 3-6 with updates on the league’s proceedings, and according to Green, a final decision on whether the league will continue or not should be made by Wednesday, at the latest.
“We get weekly bulletins from the league, but the last one was they sent was a statement from the committee saying that they were waiting for Boris [Johnson]’s statement on Monday to see what he’s saying and what we can and cannot do,” said Green.
“The league committee will probably meet on the Tuesday or 11 o’clock on Wednesday to discuss an outcome. That’s their time to do it.
“The proviso is that no games will go ahead in our league unless we can open the clubhouses because gate money alone won’t keep the club’s going, we need extra money from the bar and food to keep us going, so that’s how it stands.”
The tier systems in place during the back end of 2020 and the current lockdown in the UK has meant the last time Bishop’s Cleeve played a league game was all the way back at the end of October – a 2-0 win over Easington Sports.
Green says that the club want the season to continue if possible, however if the decision prolongs, then null-and-voiding the season may be the for the best.
“We said that we would gladly continue if the season could continue by March 31, but if it couldn’t start by then, then we’d have it null and void.
“We said we’re quite happy to play up until the beginning of May, playing twice a week, but that’s where we left it. We need a fortnight to get players back up to speed because they haven’t trained, only a few of them are training individually and keeping to their regime set by the physio.
“We are quite happy for it to start and to carry on but the committee don’t think there’s any chance of the league started again this season.”
The Government’s Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston, announced at the end of January that Steps 3-6 of the National League system will receive up to £10 million in grants to help approximately 850 clubs at risk.
The grants have made sure clubs like Bishop’s Cleeve can stay financially stable during these tough times.
“We seem to be ok money-wise. We’ve applied for all the grants that are going and been successful in getting them. We’ve been pretty fortunate that we don’t have any contract players, so they don’t have to be paid, whether they play or not.
“There’s very little outcome, it’s just electricity to keep the place going. The pitch people have stopped at the moment, we’ve not had them in, but someone has to go in and be able to cut the grass.
“The chairman’s been putting markers on the pitch, so we know where we’re going to put the lines, because that is a hard task. If you don’t have any lines to start off with, it’s one hell of a job,” Green explained behind a chuckle.
The club recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for their £771,000 conversion of Kayte Lane, which will see a new 3G pitch installed, as well as car park and lighting improvements.
The Crowdfunder has been backed by England manager Gareth Southgate and ex-Manchester United footballer Lee Sharpe, with the target being initially set at £20,000 as they look to find the remaining £90,000 needed.
It was recently announced that the National League North and South will be null-and-voided, meaning Gloucestershire-based side Gloucester City had their chances of Promotion snatched from them, as they sat top of the table.
The null-and-void will be a tough pill to swallow for Gloucester, however Green feels that it was the best decision for their league due to the bigger finances the clubs have to deal with.
“They will have contract players that will have to be paid even if they don’t play, and it’s very difficult to pay these players, especially when you’ve got no income.
“A lot of those sort of clubs are paying out of their own pocket or the committee are paying out of their own pocket because there’s no money coming in. Sponsorship money will only go so far.
“I follow Kidderminster Harriers because that’s where I’m from, and their game the other day that was due to be away in Boston. They’ll need to go to pay for a coach and I’d be estimating that’s not far off a thousand pounds, and then you’ve got paid players to pay, too.
“It’s probably the best thing to happen. I couldn’t see how they [Kidderminster] were going to survive.”
The Mitres currently sit fourth in the Hellenic Premier Division, and the stop-start season has potentially had a big effect on the clubs dreams of promotion.
“It’s hit us quite bad because the team had got into the stride in the league, we had a couple of kickbacks in the FA cup and the FA trophy. And again, that was probably due to the players coming back immediately from lockdown and playing a game without any preparation.”
“All in all, the lockdown has really been quite a blow to Paul [Collicutt]’s plans for promotion.”