09:00AM, Friday 12 February 2021
Slough Town boss Neil Baker expects the club to be sanctioned in some way for their refusal to play matches while the outcome of a vote on whether to continue with the season is still unknown.
However, he’s appealed to the better judgement of the National League board on the matter and believes clubs that are currently refusing to fulfil fixtures have valid reasons for doing so amid the current uncertainty.
Last week the Rebels informed the league and rivals Chelmsford City they wouldn’t be playing Saturday’s match – or any other fixtures – until the current situation is resolved.
Under league rules any club which fails to fulfil a competitive fixture without just cause is liable to disciplinary action, including a deduction of points and or fines, however, Baker believes the safety protocols rumoured to be coming in this month are still not robust enough to protect players and their families, while taking on loans to carry on with the campaign remains another major concern.
The club is strongly opposed to the season continuing without vital grant support for clubs, or improved safety measures to protect players, and have made these points clear in numerous statements over the past month.
The league is putting plans in place to provide weekly COVID testing for players and club staff at no cost to the club, and it’s looking increasingly likely there may be a majority of teams at Slough’s level who want to continue.
“We’ve been threatened with one of their rule breaks, but we feel as though we’ve got just cause,” he said.
“The National League has suspended itself for two weeks to sort out the funding issues and that still hasn’t been sorted.
“There’s also never been a centralised testing procedure put in place.
“While they’ve come out to say tests will start from February 15, my opinion is that it is still not robust enough and it needs to be a centralised system.
“It’s still open to abuse and if clubs are just told ‘here are a load of tests, go and test your own players’, unfortunately there will be some that might not make it public if they get a positive test. You’re having to trust these clubs.
“The Premier League and the EFL have developed centralised systems so everything is accountable, but that is still not in place at our level.
“They’re also asking us to trade without any income and that’s not a position we and many other clubs want to be in.
“That’s why we’ve made our stand. It’s not about anything other than the situation we’re in.
“We feel that we’ve got just cause and we will wait to see what happens on the back of that.”
Clubs have been voting on whether to continue with or scrap their respective leagues for the past week, and legally have 28 days to respond, however, most will hope the situation is resolved sooner rather than later. If most clubs do want to continue, Baker said the decision on whether Slough would fall back in line and resume matches would be taken by the club’s board.
He said: “Obviously, we still hope that the season is declared null and void because then we can park it and concentrate for the next one whenever that may be. There are several clubs that have already voted to null and void but it’s getting to that majority and then also hoping the first resolution passes.
“If the league decides to continue, it goes down to the steering group of the club. They will make that decision.
“Jon and I might have an opinion to share at that point on what we want to do and what is right to do but, at the end of the day, it will be the club who make that decision.”
The Rebels were also due to face Ebbsfleet United away on Tuesday and Hampton & Richmond Borough at home this Saturday.
“Ebbsfleet managed to organise another game last night against Hampton. We just have to see what happens. From a football point of view, nothing is happening.
“We haven’t trained or done anything for four or five weeks now.
“The last time we did something was Ebbsfleet and prior to that we had only trained twice this year.
“It’s a crazy situation, one I hate being in and we will hopefully get some guidance at some point.”
He added: "What I’ve also hated about all of this is the name calling. I’ve hated that from day one.
"We’re all in the same boat, we’ve all got issues and things that are outside of our control. Granted, let people know your opinion and what you feel, but I don’t think we should be derogatory to any other club.
"As I've said, everyone has got their own decisions to make.”
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