29 Jan 2021 by John Edwards

Carry on playing, say Alty - we owe it to the integrity of the league to finish the season

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The following is a statement from the board of Altrincham FC, supplied by Co-Chairman Bill Waterson (pictured).

Clubs in the Vanarama National League are being asked to make a very important decision in the coming week – do we continue with the 2020-21 season?  The position at Altrincham Football Club is clear – we carry on, we complete the current season even if we have to do it behind closed doors. 

This is not a decision we have taken lightly, and it's one that will cost us money.  But we’ve worked on our costings and taken our decision.  We are concerned that mothballing the league and stopping playing football could inflict damage on the club and on the league that could take many seasons to repair.

We owe it to our supporters, to our players and management team, to our volunteers and to our history and that of the National League to do all we can to continue playing football, despite the burden it places on the club. We will have to find alternative ways to manage that cost impact.  

That this will cause financial hardship for clubs, there is no doubt.  But clubs at Step 1 and Step 2 have obligations as well.  Obligations to Elite Sport and obligations to maintain and uphold those far-reaching advances that the founders of the league worked so hard to achieve. 

The Alliance Premier League, as the National League was then known, was created over 40 years ago through the efforts of visionary club chairmen, led by Alty’s Noel White, and was intended to create a golden pathway for non-League clubs into the Football League.  For the first eight years of the league, there was no automatic promotion, and Altrincham won the title twice in those years, with the Football League re-election system blocking our progress. 

The battle to win a single promotion spot to the League was hard-fought and was achieved in 1987, but it took a lot longer to secure the second promotion place, with this being earned for the play-off winners as recently as 2003. Alty were denied this opportunity – we would have qualified for the play-offs no fewer than six times if they had been put in place earlier. 

So, we at Altrincham FC know just how hard it was for the National League to secure two promotion spots to the Football League and to be rightly entitled to call this level Elite Sport. 

You have to question whether the member clubs walking away from the current season fits with the status of the league and the aspirations of ambitious member clubs. You have to doubt that those member clubs seeking to finish the season early are honouring the memory of those pioneers who fought hard to establish automatic promotion to the Football League.  

Being Elite carries heavy responsibility; it is a right that has been hard-earned and obligations inherent on clubs need to be upheld. The National League, in exchange for automatic promotion to the Football League, must continue playing and conclude this season.  The member clubs must avoid any actions that could jeopardise our Elite status.  

And Altrincham FC intend to honour our obligations in full as proud members of this league – we play on, we finish the season. 

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