Rescue? Yes, the time is surely right for the clubs to stand up and make a noise about this debacle. Thurrock are threatening to pull out of the Ryman League. That won’t do them a lot of good, indeed the man who has been the driving force behind the club has hinted it may spell the end of football in Ship Lane. Who can blame him? But where are the cojones in non-league football. Why don’t Thurrock’s stablemates come out in support of them? This incident, which is down to a player who doesn’t sound like a great advertisement for the game, is all about an unpaid fine in Sunday, yes – Sunday football. And it wasn’t all his, but his share of a penalty – just £16.
It’s an appalling story. Thurrock have been docked three points after the season ended and have been retrospectively relegated. The FA won’t listen and an appeal to the Isthmian League has also been unsuccessful. The leagues should support their clubs, who are, after all, part-time organisations and therefore often don’t have to resources for intense trawling of football records to make 100% sure that the players they are signing have no baggage.
That’s why the clubs should stick together and get behind their peer group. But they won’t because firstly, they fear the masonic world of league administrators and rarely speak against anything for fear of being ostracized. Secondly, one man’s pain is another’s escape from relegation!
But it is a case of “there but for the grace of god” or something along those lines – if Thurrock can fall foul of this ridiculous scenario, then anyone can be tripped up. The clubs could make a point by threatening to strike, or even pull out of the league. That may make the FA and the Isthmian politburo take notice. At the very least, it could be the catalyst for some administrative changes.
It’s about time, the game exercised some of the power in the clubs at this level – the FA have been held to ransom for years by the top Premier clubs. And it is also long overdue that life is made a little easier for non-league clubs’ administrators. The leagues have full-time officials and mistakes are still made. Non-league clubs are spare-time affairs, but the expectations placed on them are often unrealistic.
They talk about the “family of non-league” and the great spirit of camaraderie amongst clubs at this level of the game. It’s time to make that evident and show Thurrock they have friends.