Southern League club who withdrew in December 2022 issue statement on their future - Fan Banter (2023)

Southern League Division One Central club Harlow Town, who withdrew from the division in December 2022, issue a statement on their future.

For the first time since their resignation last month, they have published a detailed statement as to their reasons why, and what next going forward.

The FA rules state that their playing record will be ‘expunged’ (this will mean clubs will lose any points they’ve gained against them).

The club will be treated as one of the relegated clubs in that division.

Hawks, The story continues…………
Further to the statement we made on 2nd December, today, we feel it’s appropriate to provide an update and fill in some of the blanks. Please read the article on the Clubs website for full details.https://t.co/X6oVPqRREf

— Harlow Town FC (@HarlowTownFC) January 20, 2023

CLUB STATEMENT:

Much has been written and spoken about since our statement of resignation from senior football in early December. Much of what’s been written and said has incorrectly formed opinions that to a wider audience have been deemed as fact. We feel it appropriate to now fill in some of the blanks and correct any misconceptions.

We have today received the outcome of a charge brought by The Southern Football League for withdrawing from their competition, we have been fined the sum of £3000 (which is towards the top end of the scale of fines), we are aware that league rules state that “The Company (League) shall have the discretion to issue charges against and to issue fines against the Club in accordance with Fines Tariff.” We will be appealing this fine as it completely contradicts the discussions at the meeting held here at the Club with 3 members of the League board on 25th November 2022. In addition to appealing this matter with the FA we will also be discussing matters of inappropriate language used at the meeting by a league official.

After resignation from the leagues, we were invited by the Non-League Newspaper to provide comment, we declined to do so due to the sensitive nature of our plight in connection with the failing pitch installation (these issues are still not resolved). We were absolutely astonished to read two aspects of the report in comments provided by the league Chairman:
1. That “they would have considered any option that could have avoided Harlow Town’s shock resignation” and
2. That “It all came suddenly. That hadn’t been on the agenda as far as we were concerned.”

Recapping our meeting on 25th November, in attendance with 2 others was the Vice Chairman of the League. We can only deduce that the notes from the meeting were not shared with the Chairman and remainder of the board, or the contents of the meeting were not deemed appropriate to comment upon or indeed consider.

We fully discussed all the options available to us which included possible ground shares, reversal of fixtures, continued use of our stadium with the pitch assessed on a game-by-game basis by the match officials and if none of those were agreeable, the implications of our resignation from the league and not completing the season. We discussed this in such detail that we also researched and discussed the financial penalty for withdrawal and as a collective, the league officials in attendance said they would lead the board to no financial penalty being charged in the circumstances but for us to be mindful that they were just 3 of 8 voting board members. Of note is that the Eastern Regional Women’s Football League (ERWFL) kindly removed any financial penalty for withdrawal from their League and The Essex Senior League (ESL) are also presently considering the same.

We formally resigned from the league on 2nd December, and we received immediate responses from the ESL and ERWFL but waited 3 days to hear from The Southern League. It was explained when we did receive a reply that the Board were due to meet again in connection with us and our re-affirmation of our resignation that followed the outcome of that meeting being communicated with us did not mention throwing good money after bad it merely stated we did not wish the league to instruct and bill for reports that we had already commissioned. That response is extracted below:

“Whilst of course we appreciate the boards endeavours to assist, as explained at our recent meeting during which we discussed our options, the response now presented to us provides nothing new. In fact, the outcome of your delayed board meeting has further exacerbated our issues and the delay in reverting to us after our recent meeting has merely prolonged our misery (which we hasten to stress is not of our own doing). We do not require the board to instruct any reports on our behalf leaving us with additional financial burden above those losses of revenue that a ground share and reversed fixtures have and/or will incur. As such, with immediate effect we advise that we will not be participating in any further Southern League matches and our earlier resignation is to take immediate effect please.”

So, in chronological order:

12th August 2022 – The pitch install was completed and awarded FIFA Pro certification.

20th September – We first made Domo (contractors) aware of the surface imperfections.

22nd September – Domo visit site and proposed cutting, filling and taping the worst effected areas which we deemed inappropriate due to the sheer number of marks.

5th November – Our opponents Manager made us aware that he was in dialogue with the match officials suggesting that the game should not go ahead. The officials deemed the pitch safe to play on and the game proceeded.

(To this point and in fact beyond, no match official had deemed the surface unplayable nor unsafe (unsightly perhaps) the officials covered The Southern League, The Thurlow Nunn League, The Essex Senior League, The Eastern Regional Women’s League, The Eastern Junior Alliance League, The Mid Herts Rural Minors League and the National College League and indeed the FA’s own Essex Senior Cup tie.)

11th November – Letter received from The Southern League explaining that they had received communication from several parties and requested a report from the contractors on the condition of the pitch.

15th November – Domo suggest that we employ a third party to investigate the issues. (This was communicated to the league).

18th November – League issued further correspondence instructing the postponement of our match scheduled for 22nd November. This was the first instance of league rules being quoted and applied incorrectly. No one at that stage had visited or re-tested the pitch and therefore no-one could confirm failure of pitch surface. This instruction was given off the back of observations made, and photos sourced by the league office.

18th November – We had received a reply to communication with a well-respected artificial sports surface maintenance company whose services we had previously employed. They provided their opinion and explained that the expected remedy was out of their scope but signposted us to contractors who could undertake the project.

1st December – In a response to Southern League questions, Kestrel Contractors (company whose services we had employed to investigate and report upon finding opined that whilst aesthetically not particularly pleasing the surface was stable and safe to play on. They also proposed a remedy which included the lifting of the carpet and shock pad beneath, to regrade the base and re-install a geo-textile layer to aid with stability.

2nd December – The first match referee deemed the pitch unplayable although allowed both teams to continue to warm up for some 25 mins after a decision had been communicated to the league regarding cancellation.

We offered our immediate resignation to all leagues as we had already decided that one of the triggers for resignation would be match cancellation. It came as no great surprise after the very public trial by social media had created so much noise around our issues. We had always maintained that no match official to that point had deemed the pitch unsafe.

5th December – The Southern League acknowledged our resignation and advised that they were due to meet to discuss our situation and after some days reverted with additional unpalatable demands hence on 7th December, we reaffirmed our resignation with the League.

(This resignation from senior football was done with the sole intention of being able to complete the youth football seasons as pitches which they are permitted to play on are no subjected to the same levels of scrutiny as the senior teams.)

8th December – We received a surprise communication from The Football Foundation (on behalf of the FA) advising that the pitch was to be removed from the FA Turf Register which rendered the pitch unusable for any FA affiliated competition including the youth games). This removal was undertaken without dialogue with us and once again without the benefit of a site visit. Our resignation from the senior leagues had led the FA to believe we too were concerned with the safety of the pitch and as such took this action. The reality is as stated above, the withdrawal was not done based on pitch safety.

So, to the present day:

We await the formal outcome of a newly commissioned pitch test (Which the Football Foundation have kindly funded) to provide clarity around its permitted use for youth games.

We remain in dispute with the contractor and have received the first quote for remedial works from a third party.

Contrary to popular belief, the Club has not folded, nor does it intend to do so, the Club is not for sale, and we will be back next season.

We have commenced dialogue with The FA around returning to senior football next season.

– STATEMENT ENDS –

This is what fans said as the Southern League club who withdrew in December 2022 take to issue a statement on their future…

@L0rdRustless: What does that mean for the league next year. Will we be playing in the Southern Central when the pitch is sorted or will we need to start at the bottom of the pyramid?

@UlfrD43cca: Well done for laying this out on the table. We are all backing your return, for the adults as well as the youth!

@rdscfc1954: Good to see the explanation, looks like you have been let down by the league. Come back stronger, missing watching the games

@swjoduk: You have to expect some kind of fine, £3000 seems appropriate when Taunton Town were fined £1000 after an appeal for missing end of season Championship Match. My Sunday League side withdrew halfway through the season and fined £300 or so. Fine divided between registered players

@RaymondTrowsda1: The @SouthernLeague1 is run by a bunch of clowns who could not run a bath let alone league.They should be ashamed of themselves, they are disgrace. I for one am glad Harlow is out that Mickey mouse league. The @FA should investigate the @SouthernLeague1 and take them to task.

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Southern League club who withdrew in December 2022 issue statement on their future - Fan Banter (1)

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