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Statement: Commencement of season

Jason Turner writes to National League

23 September 2020

Our CEO Jason Turner has written to the National League insisting that the season should commence on 3 October despite supporters not being permitted in stadiums.

"It is the firm belief of the Notts County board that the new season should commence, behind closed doors, on Saturday 3 October as scheduled," said Turner.

"We are, of course, disappointed that the government’s aim to reintroduce fans to stadiums from 1 October won’t be achieved but, like all other clubs, we have worked incredibly hard and invested considerable funds in building and preparing our squad for the new season. We have also continued, at our own cost, to regularly test our players and staff for Covid-19, such is our determination to play football and play it safely.

"Our players have undertaken a full pre-season programme and played a number of matches behind closed doors, both home and away. Clubs have therefore already demonstrated they can host matches behind closed doors safely and successfully in line with the protocols that have been justifiably introduced.

"In the National League’s letter to all clubs dated 27 July the start date of 3 October was confirmed, but that letter did not state that the date would be delayed or reviewed if supporters were not permitted to attend at that point.

"Given the Prime Minister’s indication that the measures he outlined yesterday could be in place well into the new year, we are hugely concerned that if we do not proceed next Saturday clubs will be left in a state of limbo for months on end and that the season may never commence. 

"Uefa have relaxed Article 48 which has given clubs a great opportunity to raise important revenue by streaming their home matches. By allowing home clubs to retain all revenue from their games, the league have potentially helped the clubs who attract lower crowds to achieve a greater return from away supporters than had they been allowed to attend in person, as a live stream has greater scope to reach more people.

"Further income can be generated through creative matchday sponsorship and advertising opportunities, whilst savings will be made on normal matchday costs.

"Surely clubs will be better off fulfilling fixtures given that player and staff wages will need to be paid regardless.  We are not denying that there will be a shortfall in usual matchday revenue, which is where external financial support is required, but fail to see how not playing matches would paint a healthier financial picture.

"We are also unsure why, as an elite league, the National League would not follow in the Premier League and EFL’s footsteps in commencing the season behind closed doors. It is our strong view that our approach should be no different.

"Having discussed this issue with several other clubs in the league I am confident that there is overwhelming support to get the season underway, and we look forward to receiving further communication and clarity from the National League as soon as possible."

Our manager, Neal Ardley, also spoke passionately about this issue following last night’s FA Trophy tie against Harrogate Town. 

“We are already six weeks behind in our season and the Government have said quite clearly these restrictions could be up to six months, which would almost write off the whole season. What are we going to do, play 46 games in six weeks?” said Ardley.

“The government have also said they would be talking to sporting authorities about how they can support clubs. That gives us a glimmer of hope that there might be some support coming. 

“I am adamant that people can think outside the box and get their house in order regarding the streaming of games. If that’s the way fans have to watch it, they will support their club.

“We can’t fold and say we haven’t got what we wanted, the season is over. What sort of mentality is that? 

“We have to come together and find a way to avoid the worst-case scenario of the season not starting.” 

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