CHRISTMAS is cancelled for Hyde United, Stalybridge Celtic and Mossley who have postponed their festive fixtures.
It follows an about turn by the Northern Premier League which had ordered a mandatory restart on December 26.
However, following an outcry from clubs, including the three local teams, the league has now instructed clubs it is now optional to return over the festive period.
But as the local sides would have lost a considerable amount of money – gates were restricted to 300 for Hyde and Stalybridge and 200 for Mossley with bar and food sales banned – it was a no brainer for them to cancel.
Celtic had been due to play hosts to Hyde United on Boxing Day and visit Ashton United on New Year’s Day, two derbies which would have been lucrative in any other year.
Rob Gorski, Celtic chairman and majority shareholder, was again critical of the NPL saying it “showed no leadership” by leaving each club to make its own choice over whether to play or not.
Most clubs have acted swiftly and come to the same conclusion as opted not to resume for financial reasons.
Mr Gorski said: “After discussing the matter with Hyde United chairman Steve Hartley, I confirm that our Boxing Day derby will sadly not take place this year. This was a joint decision and both boards were unanimous in their views.
“Both clubs want to see football return, however, we are tied to having just 300 fans through the gate and a significant number of those would not be paying on the day as they are season-ticket holders, VPs etc and with no refreshments on sale, that is simply not an economically viable scenario.
“There have been a plethora of clubs issuing statements with one stating that they would go into liquidation within three weeks if they continued to play under current restrictions.
“I believe that I am far from being the only chairman that is ‘disappointed’ with the leadership shown by our LMC in addressing what we all accept are unprecedented times, however the decision taken was a simple one.
“Despite wanting to play football, this board is only the temporary custodian of this great club of ours and we cannot financially jeopardise over a century of Celtic history while simultaneously potentially putting at risk the health of our fans.
“So, on a rather depressing note, I sadly confirm that football at our club is over for 2020.”
Hyde chairman Steve Hartley added: “I had long telephone conversations with Rob Gorski and Buxton’s Dave Hopkins, and we all agreed that holding our festive derby games with a limit of 300 home supporters, no social club, no sponsorship packages or other match day income, could only generate losses for our clubs, and these games would be better postponed until games can be played in more normal conditions with supporters from both sides able to attend.
“Our board is also conscious that with the new strain of the virus already appearing in the north of the country, there is every likelihood that further lockdowns may well be imposed in the new year, making completion of the season in its current format highly unlikely.
“It is therefore with regret that we have taken the decision not to play our games over the festive season, and our home match against Buxton on New Year’s Day has therefore been postponed.
“Our away match at Stalybridge Celtic on Boxing Day has also been postponed, and Buxton have postponed their Boxing Day fixture against Matlock Town, again with the agreement of both clubs. Most of the other fixtures in our division have also been postponed.
“The decision has not been taken lightly, but the directors are conscious that we are only the current custodians of our wonderful football club with its 135-year history, and it would be irresponsible of us to deliberately lose money in this time of great uncertainty.”
Mossley, who were the first club to go public with criticisms of the NPL’s decision to order a restart, have cancelled home league games against Brighouse Town and Ramsbottom United on December 23 and 26 respectively.
They played a home friendly against Atherton Collieries on Saturday to prepare for their restart.
In a statement, Mossley’s board of directors said: “We know supporters may be disappointed, but this is not a decision we have taken lightly.
“In our original statement we said we did not support the restart of the league season on the proposed dates and we stand by this. Doing so would have meant reduced crowds, no secondary income, no away supporters and operating at a loss.
“To those clubs and officials who called into question our integrity by us not supporting the restart but then planning to play, the consequences of not fulfilling fixtures – financial and sporting penalties – had been made very clear to us. We could have been loss-making or loss-making and deducted points.
“The full correspondence that clubs received from the NPL shows little regard for the long-term futures of clubs.
“To those who took the lead and stood together, thank you. The ‘competition’ is nothing without its clubs.
“We will continue to conduct our own feasibility reviews on a fixture-by-fixture basis and act accordingly.”
The NPL, in its most recent statement, explained the principal issue raised by clubs was that, as a result of the original decision, they were effectively being forced to stage competitive fixtures at a financial loss.
The league added it wanted to avoid, if possible, a second consecutive season being declared null and void. Clubs should therefore bear in mind that any further fixture suspensions could increase this risk.
It was decided playing league fixtures on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day will now be optional with the agreement of both clubs.