Mark Carruthers' non-league verdict: Why clubs deserve better upon return to action

There will be a time when we return to normality and getting back watching our non-league clubs in person becomes the routine that it was not so long ago.

Wednesday, 27th January 2021, 2:27 pm
Mark Carruthers' non-league verdict: Why clubs deserve better upon return to action

We will make the same walk to the ground, visit the same pub, speak to the same people, stand in the same places, and all that has gone on over the last 12 months will become a distant memory.

We are in uncertain times, it is a cold, dark period in the history of our game and the road ahead remains full and twists and turns before anything resembling normality can be found.

For now, we plough on, we do what we can for our clubs and support them in any way possible in the hope that they will all be around when the action finally gets underway.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But when that moment does come, it should also be met with the realisation that our clubs, supporters, volunteers, players and coaches deserve better than the treatment they have received over the last year.

They deserve better than being left in the dark for long periods of time, they deserve better than not knowing what is happening from one week to the next.

They deserve better than having to constantly fight their own corner and to consistently find out information via the media, rather than the governing bodies that hold their fate in their hands.

They deserve better than the weak, haphazard leadership and poor decision making that has led many of them to speculate whether their clubs will still be around in years to come.

From the government to the decision makers at the Football Association, the power brokers across the country and those involved in the non-league game have let their clubs down on a consistent basis throughout the epidemic.

I do have a degree of sympathy for the Football Association and the people that guide the non-league game.

If we look back 12 months, nobody within their organisation could have planned for the epidemic and produced a tried and tested method for helping clubs across the country safely navigate their way through such a crisis.

But we are now a year on from that point and can look back at what has and has not been achieved during that time.

The prospect of the efforts of those involved on and off the pitch at non-league clubs going to waste is drawing ever closer as the possibility of a second consecutive season being declared null and void increases.

Should lessons have been learnt from the events of last year and a robust plan for every eventuality put together to enable the non-league game to be effectively managed throughout these troubled times?

Can we not draw on the experience of how the culmination of last season was so disastrously managed and look to avoid the same mistakes being made as we head into the business end of the current season?

This is where my sympathy for the Football Association runs out and why I believe that time has come for an independent body made up of elected representatives to run the non-league game.

This body would still work under the umbrella of the FA, but they would be made up of individuals with no direct influence on clubs.

They would declare all of their past and current roles across any companies on a yearly basis to ensure impartiality in all decisions and would make recommendations to the National League and all leagues below them in the pyramid.

They will work with clubs, liaise with them on a regular basis over key matters, get them involved in guiding the club on from the crisis in which they find themselves.

Let every part of the non-league game have a say to ensure that the new body can make informed decisions, rather than making them based on the interest of the few.

I said in my column last week that clubs need clarity and guidance, but they should also be given the chance to have their say in how the game moves forwards at this level.

I am very fortunate that I get a broad spectrum of the sense of feeling in and around non-league clubs, but the same messages are being sent out during the last few months.

Clubs want better communication, they want to know what lies ahead, they want accountability and decisions that are consistent across the levels.

More than one club has suggested that the English game is now functioning with multiple pyramids rather than the one that is almost unique in world football.

It is now full of self-serving individuals that refuse to look at the bigger picture, no matter how dire the consequences may be for clubs lower down the pyramid.

The Covid-19 epidemic has brought out the best in some clubs as they serve their local communities in the most difficult times.

But it has also brought out the worst in many people in the English game and the greed and selfish attitude has been all too prevalent.

In the short-term, their attitudes will benefit the powerful few, and marginalise the many that are left to feed on crumbs.

In the long-term, they will weaken the pyramid and clubs that have been at the centre of their towns, villages and cities will be consigned to the history books.

If anything good is to come out of this sorry situation, it should be a realisation that it is time for change in attitude and direction at every level of the game.