Stalybridge Celtic chairman warns of boycott threat as clubs oppose restart

ROB Gorski, Stalybridge Celtic chairman and majority shareholder, can see Northern Premier League clubs refusing to play after a ‘mandatory’ restart to the campaign has been set for December 26.

And Mossley chairman Stephen Porter warned the Lilywhites would be unable to complete the season should they be forced to continue and the current lockdown restrictions not be eased.

Celtic, Hyde United and Mossley have all voiced their concerns after the NPL has set Boxing Day as a mandatory restart date while this weekend is optional for a resumption.

Celtic and Hyde are restricted to 300 spectators and Mossley just 200 with bar and catering facilities shut, leaving clubs to face a big financial hit if play resumes.

Rob Gorski

“If the restart is obligatory, there will be a huge riot and some clubs may genuinely refuse to play,” explained Mr Gorski.

Clubs had been given the option to restart on Saturday (Dec 19) and Celtic arranged a premier division game against Matlock Town at Bower Fold.

Mr Gorski added: “Was I hasty? Probably yes as we will lose a four-figure sum by staging the game as we have had to take players off furlough.

“Once it is obligatory to play, all clubs will lose money, especially with derbies scheduled for Boxing Day which are their cash cows.

“We would expect a crowd of at least 800 for the game against Hyde, but it will be restricted to 300.”

Mr Gorski added the Celtic directors’ decision to resume on Saturday, December 19 was influenced by Hyde and other clubs being permitted to play in the FA Trophy.

“The manager (Simon Haworth) wanted a game as Hyde and others who had played in the FA Trophy would have had a competitive edge over us,” he explained.

Mr Gorski added there are a lot of “disgruntled” chairmen who are unhappy with the way the NPL has decided to go it alone.

The 224 clubs in the Trident Leagues (NPL, Isthmian and Southern Leagues) met collectively in early December and decided to put the season on “pause” because of the lockdown restrictions.

Mossley AFC chairman Stephen Porter

Mr Gorski added he and other chairmen are unhappy how the NPL has broken ranks and decided to go it alone with the resumption while the other leagues have deferred a decision until January at the earliest.

The Celtic chief has been highly critical of the NPL’s handling of the pandemic, especially a failure to get financial support from the Government which the National League secured.

“Our representatives have been very poor, a view shared by many other chairmen. I thought they were incompetent and out of their depth and this has confirmed that,” he said.

Mr Porter explained Mossley are returning to action under protest, declaring: “We have no option as the Boxing Day restart is mandatory.

“Returning with a crowd limit of 200 and no wet sales and food is unsustainable. We wouldn’t last until the end of the season operating like that,” he warned.

Mr Porter is also unhappy with the NPL’s handling of the restart.

He said: “It started democratically with all clubs having a vote which was to suspend the season.

“We were all for the non-league family sticking together under the Trident umbrella only for the NPL to go it alone.

“There are a lot of clubs in the NPL premier and north west divisions who are not comfortable about playing and it doesn’t feel right.”

Mossley were averaging gates of 400 before lockdown and Mr Porter, adding only half will be able to attend which is unfair.

He continued: “When we were told we had to play, we took things into own hands.

“We decided to arrange a home league match against Brighouse on Tuesday (Dec 22) because we are also at home to Ramsbottom on Boxing Day.

“By having back-to-back home games, it will give as many of our fans as possible the chance to see us over Christmas.”

Mossley have also written to the NPL offering to share figures of the financial impact their decision will have.

Mr Porter is also disappointed the NPL has failed to respond to their message which voiced their opposition and concerns about the restart.

In a statement to fans on the club’s website, Mossley’s directors said: “The players, coaching team, supporters and directors want football back as soon as possible but, as custodians of a club with a 117-year history and a proud place at the heart of our community, we are not prepared to put our club at risk in the long term.”

The Lilywhites agreed with Trafford that the league fixture at Shaw View would not take place on Saturday, December 19, instead arranging a friendly against Atherton Collieries at Seel Park that day, kick off 1.30pm with a crowd limit of 200.

Hyde United’s Dave McGurk

Hyde United director and general manager Pete Ainger said: “We’re not happy after the decision was taken by clubs in the three Trident leagues to pause the season.

“Then on Tuesday (Dec 15) the wheels came off and the hares were left running for themselves

“No further consultation took place with NPL member clubs regarding this U-turn or how many clubs were complaining to them.

“There was no explanation of the NPL board’s thought process. They didn’t wait until the Government’s Tier announcements and consequently for many clubs now the situation remains the same, limited attendance for Step 3 and 4 clubs of 300/200 and no secondary income from social club sales etc.

“Other clubs with benefactors or in Tier 2 (600/400 max) may have a different view but, even then, they will still be running at a net loss for each match.”



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