ROB Gorski, Stalybridge Celtic chairman and majority shareholder, has hit out at the way non elite semi-professional clubs have been treated during Covid-19.
“Clubs in Steps 3-6 (Northern Premier League and downwards) have been treated appallingly,” he said.
“The vast majority of chairmen at our level believe clubs have been treated poorly and almost discarded which I believe is shameful.”
Mr Gorski is critical of the leadership from the NPL’s management committee and the lack of support from both footballing powers and politicians.
Whereas the National Leagues, one tier above Celtic, received a £10million grant from the Government, the NPL and two other equivalent leagues, did not receive any meaningful help.
He said: “We have drawn the short straw and many clubs, including ours, are deeply disappointed that our league management committee failed to secure anything like the deal that the National League did.
“Curzon Ashton (National League North) are a smaller club to ours in terms of history, their ground and heritage and yet they receive lottery money every month as grants, not loans.
“Our league got a derisory figure as a loan. Loans are pointless as we don’t want to borrow money and leave debts we are unable to repay if we are unable to get revenue in.
“I am in an email chain with the other 21 chairmen in our league and they are disappointed with the league management committee, Football Association, Premier League and politicians for not rallying around us.”
Mr Gorski pointed out £10m is being distributed among the 70 National League clubs while one tier below are 228 clubs in the NPL, Southern League and Isthmian League who have received no financial help.
He continued: “There is a feeling among chairman that MPs should have lobbied harder to get grants which are not only for 228 clubs but 228 communities.
“A grant of £10m, the same as the 70 National League clubs received, would have benefitted 228 clubs. If we had each received £30,000, we would have been able to continue playing.
“It may sound a lot of money, but the Arts Council received £1.5billion and the Government has borrowed a quarter of a trillion pounds.”
Mr Gorski added it was the unanimous feeling of clubs that it was impossible to play at their level without crowds with no revenue to pay wages.
“It was a complete no-brainer to play without fans and for us was an absolute non-starter,” he said.
Mr Gorski explained that without the financial support from Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been a lifesaver.
“I have no time for Boris Johnson, but without Sunak’s intervention a lot of clubs at our level would have gone to the wall,” he said.
Celtic were able to furlough contracted players for each of the two national lockdowns.
But Mr Gorski added clubs at their level are “genuinely starting to struggle” with revenue streams slashed.
And when Celtic have been able to play, their lucrative sponsors’ lounge has remained shut since March.
• Hyde United, Stalybridge Celtic and Mossley were among the 224 clubs from the NPL, Southern and Isthmian Leagues who voted to keep the season on pause.
The local clubs and most others admitted it would be impossible to play behind closed doors with no revenue and a failure to secure Government grants.
“If that had happened, clubs would be shutting within one month,” declared Celtic secretary Andrew Betts.
The clubs are waiting for a Government review on December 16 into the current restrictions with Celtic and Hyde two of 17 teams in NPL, premier division in Tier 3.
They would like a return to before the second lockdown when restricted numbers of fans were able to watch games, even though they were in Tier 3.
He cannot see Celtic returning to action until Boxing Day at the earliest – they have a home derby against Hyde United that day.
A statement was issued by the three ‘Trident Leagues’.
“The clubs in membership of the Northern Premier, Southern and Isthmian Leagues (the Trident Leagues) met to consider the challenges and issues brought about by the reintroduction of Tiers after the raising of the nationwide lockdown.
“The clubs were asked to vote on a proposition that the pause in fixtures be continued with a regular review in light of changes to the Tiers and/or grants becoming available.
“The total votes cast by the 224 clubs showed a substantial number in agreement with the proposition.”