Adam Lakeland on the Current National League Situation
By Ben Swain
Adam Lakeland believes “it’s a joke” how National League clubs are being treated through the COVID-19 pandemic amid the news that the funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport would continue – but only as loans.
The National League North and South yesterday began a two-week suspension following a request by clubs at step two.
Farsley Celtic are one of twelve National League North teams who signed a letter requesting the suspension, all collectively stating their reluctance to continue playing without COVID-19 testing and without grant funding.
The National League board’s meeting with member clubs on Wednesday offered three options in which to fund the season while fans remain absent – including a loan system, a loan to the National League distributed as grants to member clubs and, finally, a null and void scenario.
Lakeland is asking for change.
“Whatever the outcome, there’s got to be a change within the existing structure and personnel in the National League because it’s embarrassing the way things have been handled,” said Lakeland.
“If clubs had known in September/October that the money was not going to be granted, it was going to be loans, then the majority of clubs would not have even wanted to start the season at all.
“On the flip side of that, there’s been no testing in place.
“The PFA are funding the testing in the EFL. Are our lives and our players’ lives not as important as those people?
“If you went through the National League and North & South, a lot of players who are playing in those divisions are PFA members. The PFA has got plenty of money.”
Beyond his own willingness for the season to continue, Lakeland admits that because both financially and for the safety of his players’ and staffs’ health under the current scheme – the season cannot continue.
“Unless that’s [loans] converted into grants then I just don’t see a way the season can continue,” Lakeland continued.
“Nobody in their right mind would go and take a loan that they had to pay back over ten, fifteen, twenty years to play five months’ worth of football.
“From a selfish point of view, I would find it difficult if I was unable to go to training twice a week and manage my team on a Saturday, I would find it difficult because football is in my blood, it’s what I enjoy doing and it’s massively supporting millions and millions of people’s mental wellbeing.
“But if you’re asking me if I feel that should continue with myself, my staff, my players, putting ourselves at risk every other day, without any form of testing, I would probably say no.
“There’s a hell of a lot of people who are testing positive with no symptoms whatsoever and without testing, we just have no idea whether anybody, at any point, is positive or not.
“I have to say – the protocols that our club have put in place have been superb. That is something that we as a club should be very proud of, the way we’ve conducted and managed the risk assessment side of things so far.”
“We may have people positive, like any club in the country, who have absolutely zero symptoms but unless you have a testing structure in place, you’re never going to know that and obviously clubs can’t afford to test at this level.
“We’ve got three of our lads who have just become fathers or are due to become fathers again in the next few days.
“They could be mixing in changing rooms, on coaches, with opposition players, with officials, who may be positive without knowing, and then be expected to go back to their days and weeks old babies.
“That’s just not right.”