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Hungerford chairman Patrick Chambers unhappy with National League's role

Crusaders' season is declared null and void after votes from clubs were counted

HUNGERFORD Town chairman Patrick Chambers believes the National League brand could face some ‘long-term damage’ after the vote that led to the season being declared null and void.

At the start of February, clubs in the National League Premier, North and South, were given the option to vote on whether the season continued or whether it ended immediately.

Another part of the vote allowed teams in the Premier Division to determine whether they wanted to vote as a sole division, or as a group with Step 2 clubs.

A total of 24 Step 2 sides voted to end the campaign, compared to 19 against and only nine National League South sides voted to end the season, while 12 wanted to continue – with Hungerford being one of them.

But because of the vote being across both North and South divisions, they will see their campaigns end, although teams in the National League Premier can continue.

Chambers said: “It was obvious and I think that resolution one stitched up the National League South clubs.

“You have had two divisions that have voted to continue and only one that voted as a majority to end, but because of resolution one they have added the votes on from the North and the South and as a result the season has ended.”

As a result of the recent announcement, Chambers believes splitting the two steps in order to vote shouldn’t have been an option.

“It will be damaging to the brand in the long-term,” admitted Chambers. “The BT Sport contract benefits the National League and the publicity is there for when we speak to potential sponsors.

“I do think there could be some long-term damage to the brand and it’s set a very dangerous precedent by dividing the two steps.

“You have to ask the question as to how can Step 1 continue till the end of the season with no grants when they’re spending £20,000 a week.

“But clubs at our level are spending between £2,000 and £10,000 a week, so it all just seems a bit odd.”

Hungerford were training ahead of their proposed league game with Welling United when they heard the news and the chairman felt it was hard on the club’s players, Danny Robinson and his management team.

He said: “You have to feel for them because all they want to do is play football.

“If the season had ended due to Covid, then it would have been more palatable than it being ended because of a row over how the league was to be funded.

“If you were at the bottom of the league you might see it all as a bit of a relief, but we have seen this season as a bit of a free hit because we have benefitted from council grants and other things.

“So we felt like if the club could get to the end of the season with funding, then it should,” he said. “It has been a great lift for Danny and the players and you want to give them the opportunity to finish what they have started.

“I think they can be incredibly proud that they sat in seventh place when the season was declared null and void, and they have been in the top seven since the season began.”

The Crusaders will look at furloughing their contracted players for March and April, and although the scheme is due to end then, Chambers has started drawing up plans in regards to plans after that.

He said: “You can only furlough players who were on the October payroll, so we’re trying to get clarification and we’ll do what-ever we can legally to sort things out.

“The season was due to end in May and the current furlough scheme is due to end in April, so it throws up a few question marks, but we’ll do whatever we can.”

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