Eastbourne bosses ensure the National League 'play on' battle is stepped up

Eastbourne Borough have not given up hope of finishing their National League South season - and are doing their bit to put pressure on league bosses to reverse moves to make their campaign null and void.

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 4:05 pm
Match action at Priory Lane - but will there be much more of it this season? Picture: Lydia Redman

National South and North fixtures have ceased after a complicated vote involving clubs from the two divisions and the premier division was held.

But 18 clubs in the South and North divisions believe the vote was not properly run and they should be allowed to play on.

It all, in a nutshell, comes down to money.

The government gave all National League clubs grants to cover the cost of playing the first three months of the season without fans - and clubs assumed the ‘future funding’ promised would also be in grant form. But when it was offered as loans, a number of clubs said they could not risk playing on while building up debt, still without fans coming in.

Borough’s view is that the loans are competitive and that, having got halfway through the season, it should be played to a conclusion.

The Priory Lane outfit sit third in National South and have a great chance of a play-off place if things get that far.

The league’s move to null and and void the two divisions’ seasons has to be ratified by the FA Council, and that has not yet happened.

Borough chairman David Blackmore said in a club website interview with Kevin Anderson the 18 clubs who had written to league manager Mark Ives felt the National League had acted against its own rules and the result was unlawful.

He said that overall, 54 per cent of clubs wanted to carry on. “We feel that the vote wasn’t constitutional and therefore our season isn’t null and void.”

Blackmore said if the decision was reversed and teams were able to carry on, the leagues should carry on as they were, in premier, north and south divisions. But he accepted there were some clubs that did not feel they could carry on, so they could look at different options for continuing.

Blackmore said clubs were told funding was in place for the first three months of the season (to cover playing with no fans) and were assured there would be future funding - and clubs understood that would be grants. But that then turned into a mixed offering including loans.

CEO John Bonar said Borough had slashed their budget for this season.

“We were prudent and careful and we’ve done everything in the right way,” he said. “The loans being offered are very very competitive.

“We feel we should be playing football and have a moral duty.”

Bonar said the club’s future would ‘not at all’ be at risk if they played on without a new government grant.

Manager Danny Bloor said the players were continuing to train until they were told for sure they would not be playing on.

He said even if they did not play until next season, they were looking forward to taking the club forward whenever they could.

Bloor said he would be more than happy if he was working with the same ‘good and well-balanced’ squad next season.

Blackmore said: “Our view is very, very clear. We’re a football club and we want to play football.”

He said if they didn't, it would be like a coffee ship not wanting to serve customers coffee.

Borough said they would be supportive of a one-off competition if the league did not continue - something that other clubs in Sussex are also talking about if their own leagues are scrapped for the season.

See the trio's full interview in the club Youtube video embedded above in the article