National League to meet Thursday after season start plans plunged into chaos as Hartlepool United fans wait

The National League will meet on Thursday to thrash out plans amid growing concern the season won’t start on October 3.

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 1:50 pm
Victoria Park, home of Hartlepool United.
Victoria Park, home of Hartlepool United.

The fifth tier start date had been pushed back to the start of October with the hope that some fans will be allowed inside stadiums.

But the Government’s announcement that those plans have been pushed back are causing huge concern among clubs, who have previously been told that the National League season would not start if fans were not allowed in.

A decision is expected on Thursday, with mixed views among clubs over potentially playing behind-closed-doors and the financial impact and whether it was viable for them.

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Pools boss Dave Challinor hopes the season will start as soon as possible and says Pools will have to be reactive to an ever-changing situation.

Challinor said: “It is disappointing, it is news thrust upon us quickly with no hint really. Our thought process was we played behind-closed-doors at the weekend and thought that might be a way for us to go but we were told in a manager’s zoom meeting yesterday that wouldn’t be the case.

“That if this decision was made, that we wouldn’t start. It is disappointing and people will have a lot of different views and opinions about it.

“It only affects our level and the one below us, the EFL and PL will continue to play behind-closed-doors.

“It throws more uncertainty into it but these are the times we are living in, we are having to be very reactive,” he told BBC Radio Tees.

When asked what Pools would do now, Challinor added: “You plough on, we made a plan initially that had to be changed.

"This was our final week of pre-season and the focus shifts to the Aldershot game and fine tuning for that.

"That now changes. We will train this morning, we are out on the dunes, we will have to have a meeting with the staff over where we go.

"The only option for us is to continue as we are, continue to try and keep things going and look to play behind-closed-doors against Conference North and potentially Under-23 teams.

“We have to expect that things are different for the foreseeable future. We knew this season would be different, fingers crossed we get started sooner rather than later.”

Dover Athletic chairman Jim Parmenter has already made his stance clear, stating his club will oppose any plans to start the National League season behind-closed-doors.

Parmenter said: "At present , we do not know what the plans for the league season are, but we believe that the most likely outcome is a delay to the start of the fixtures.

“Unless funding is provided by the government, football behind closed doors is not sustainable at our level. We will oppose any attempt to start the season behind closed doors.”

Meanwhile, Chesterfield chief executive, John Croot, has also given his reaction.

He told the Derbyshire Times: “I was surprised and gobsmacked when I heard Michael Gove announce it in a television interview this morning.

“I played it back to be honest just to make sure I had heard it correctly and then within a minute the chairman had called me to say ‘have you just seen what I’ve just seen’."