Non-league restart shock! So far, just 9 Thurlow Nunn Prem clubs happy to play now. Plus what our Step 3&4 clubs will be voting to do
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Suffolk’s Step 3 and 4 clubs are all reasonably keen to restart their season as soon as possible. While at Step 5, the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division has so far seen just 9 of it’s 20 teams happy to restart. At Step 6 the numbers are higher.
Although the county has been placed in tier 2, there are positive noises coming from club chairmen at Steps 3 and 4, despite the prospect of not being able to open clubhouses.
A meeting of Step 3 and 4 clubs, that includes the Isthmian and Southern Leagues, takes place on Tuesday night, but Felixstowe & Walton, Leiston, Needham, AFC Sudbury and Bury Town have all intimated their keenness to get their seasons up and running once more.
“We will be voting to restart football,” Chris Daynes, Felixstowe & Walton joint chairman, said. The Seasiders are in Step 4, Isthmian North.
“However we would like it to be flexible for every club, as many are in different situations.
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“Yes, we are going to be affected by having no clubhouse sales. We take between two and three thousand pounds a matchday in the clubhouse but we are confident that as long as we get supporters through the gate, we can survive and get through the rest of this season.
“Fortunately, we have so many other revenue streams, we are lucky we are not completely reliant on food and drink sales, whereas I know some clubs are more.
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“We would like a flexible approach, as I said. If for economic reasons clubs didn’t think it would be wise for their club to start up, you could postpone games. Not pick and choose mind you, from one week to the next.
“If clubs don’t think it’s financially viable to start up, then you don’t have do.
“The longer the season goes on not playing, we start to get into the realms of refunding 250 season ticket holders. We already have 100 sponsors not getting the exposure they could have expected. Are we going to have to refund them as well?
“But also, apart from the financial cost, it’s the social, physical, mental benefits of football we want back. At end of day we’re a football club, not a restaurant.”
Season ticket issues were something that also played on fellow Isthmian North side Bury Town chairman Russell Ward’s mind, although he is another whose club want to get back to playing.
“We want to crack on,” he said.
“Because of the amount of season tickets we have sold, we don’t want to have to refund all the holders. Then again, there would come a point that without food and drink sales, it would become difficult.
“We can run for the next few games, but if you get into January or February for whatever reason and we are not selling food and drink, that wouldn’t be good.
“We have a game scheduled for Saturday week and we want to fulfil that.
Leiston play in the Southern Central Premier, Step 3. Their chairman Andy Crisp said his club were set to have a meeting to decide on how they would vote on the decision to begin playing again. But the sentiment was they would like to.
“Personally I’d like to get going,” he said.
“But I don’t really want us travelling to tier three clubs and vice versa, them travelling to us. A lot of our profits are also made in other sales, like in the clubhouse, so again we will have to talk about that.
“It’s maybe slightly easier for clubs down the pyramid to survive on just spectator admission and not having to visit tier three clubs.”
Meanwhile, Needham Market chairman Keith Nunn, whose team play in the same league as Leiston, said. “Our position is that we are in favour of playing in front of paying spectators, although we won’t be able to sell food. We won’t be opening the clubhouse.
“But we will looking to restart, with our FA Trophy game against Leiston on December 8.”
Step 4 AFC Sudbury’s first-team boss Mark Morsley said: “We want to get started. We have a friendly with Brantham on Saturday and are at Cambridge City the Saturday after.
“There are no teams in tier 3 in Isthmian North, so let’s get on with it and get crowds in the building.”
Meanwhile The Eastern Counties League will go ahead with their restart on December 5, but not all teams will do so.
On Twitter, the League said: “Should any club wish to suspend their own fixtures because of economic or health concerns then this will normally be acceptable.”
Currently there are nine of the 20 Premier Division teams who are happy to carry on and some are waiting to see if restrictions get lifted on December 16.
Five clubs don’t want to play until January or later. It’s a mixture of Covid reasons and economic reasons with clubhouses not being able to be opened that has forced decisions.
At Step 6, there are two divisions, North and South. 28 of the 36 clubs in both divisions are happy to restart.
The Suffolk & Ipswich League does restart up this Saturday, 1.45pm kick-offs.