AFC Fylde owner's proposal amid clubs' financial dispute

AFC Fylde owner David Haythornthwaite is “very disappointed” by the move to suspend the season in National League North and South, and has proposed a solution to the financial issues involved.

Friday, 29th January 2021, 8:00 am

A decision was taken last week to stop play for a fortnight in non-league’s second tier, though it is far from certain that matches will resume next weekend and there is speculation the season could be scrapped.

At the heart of the problem is the government funding of National League clubs striving to play on behind closed doors with limited income.

The clubs received grant aid for the first three months of the campaign but the government is insisting that any funding to cover the rest of the season must take the form of loans.

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AFC Fylde owner David Haythornthwaite

Haythornthwaite believes the government position is reasonable but has submitted an alternative proposal to end the impasse.

He told The Gazette: “There’s controversy, because until the end of the year, everybody got money they don’t have to pay back and they thought the second tranche of money would be on the same terms.

“Although I do understand the position of a lot of people who don’t want to take out loans, I have to say that these loans are very favourable. You don’t have to pay anything back for two years and the interest rate is good.

“I also think you have to keep it in perspective. I don’t think anybody in any other business is expecting free money from the government and the funding for the EFL is in the form of advanced loans. I think we did very well to get the grant in the first place.

“I accept that some clubs have genuine reasons to suspend the season, particularly fan-owned clubs with nobody funding them and no source of income. I understand they have to be very careful with taking on loans.

“So this two-week suspension is for everyone to take stock. A lot of clubs are hoping the government will change its mind and a lot of letters have been written in support of continuing to provide grants.

“I have proposed a hybrid model to the league about how we can proceed should grants not be available and some clubs feel unable to continue.

“I believe it’s a credible alternative but it’s confidential at the moment and the league is looking at it.”

However, Haythornthwaite is unconvinced that all clubs have valid reasons for backing a suspension, which could cause further problems if it is extended.

He added: “Clubs voted to suspend the season for all kinds of reasons and there are clubs near the bottom of the table who are happy to stop playing.

“We were very much against the suspension and are very disappointed by the decision. After our league was granted ‘elite sport’ status last season, I believe we need to act like professional sports clubs, and throwing the toys out of the pram is not worthy of professional clubs.

“Of course, there is no guarantee of starting again a week on Saturday and the fixture backlog is already a problem. You have to factor in the weather at this time of year as well .”

Fylde still have two-thirds of their league fixtures to play but Haythornthwaite believes this problem should not be insurmountable.

“As things stand, the season is scheduled to run until the end of May so we’ll see what happens, but where there’s a will there’s a way,” he added.

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