Eastbourne Borough press their 'play on' hopes as crunch National League vote looms

Crunch time is approaching in the National League - and Eastbourne Borough are hoping it ends with matches resuming and their season being played to a finish.
Priory Lane has welcomed fans to only one Borough game so far this seasonPriory Lane has welcomed fans to only one Borough game so far this season
Priory Lane has welcomed fans to only one Borough game so far this season

There's a stand-off between the league and many of its club and the government over the form of funding that will help clubs get through the next three months as they continue to play behind closed doors.

NL clubs had £10m of grants between them for the October to December period that enabled them to get the season started - but those grants have now been replaced by loans for the January to March period.

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The Department for Digital, Culture,Media and Sport said it never promised grants would continue - but league bosses and clubs feel the wide understanding was that they would be paid again at this stage.

The upshot is that some clubs want to terminate the season because they cannot afford to play on without grants while saying loans are unworkable.

But Eastbourne Borough are among clubs who want to play on while things are resolved. The league will ask all clubs to vote on the way forward on Monday.

EBFC chairman David Blackmore told the Herald: "We will be voting to continue playing. We are also asking for the National North and South divisions to have separate votes. Relegation and promotion from NL could be adjusted if necessary if only one division continues.

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"We wish to exhaust every option in an effort to keep playing football and believe we should continue playing while lobbying for a satisfactory funding option. We have an obligation to our community and also to the funding we have already received to at least try and play on."

At present National North and South games are suspended for another week, with fixtures due to resume on Saturday, February 6.

Blackmore said Borough's views echoed those of National North side Boston, whose chairman David Newton said earlier: "Further to receiving the letter from Nigel Huddleston MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, sent on behalf of DCMS, and following today's meeting with Sport England, it is clear that funding is available for clubs to continue the season.

"Although the funding is primarily based on loans, it was also made very clear that grants will be available for those clubs that would not be in a position to repay loans. The terms of any loans are also extremely favourable, up to 20 years to repay with an initial four-year holiday period, and at only 2% interest rate.

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"All clubs applied to the league to play the season, and have commenced the playing of the season, so we believe that we all have an obligation to complete the season if possible. The funding available also recognised the community work that we all do, and it will also underpin that. It was apparent that clubs with urgent financial issues will be supported by Sport England and/or the National League.

"We feel strongly that, with the above generous support available, the National League should be instructing the clubs to play, as there are no financial reasons why they should not do so."