Southport FC have been fined £4,000 by the National League for breaches of the competition’s coronavirus regulations and failure to fulfil fixtures.
Two seperate fines of £2,000 were levied against the Sandgrounders by an independent panel. Southport were also handed a two points deduction, suspended pending any further regulation breaches.
A total of 18 clubs were charged by the National League with 17 being found guilty. Dover Athletic were handed the most severe punishment, receiving a £40,000 fine. Around £100,000 of fines have been issued by the competition.
The first charge relates to the club’s refusal to play a game against Curzon Ashton, with the second for allegedly misleading the National League over the coronavirus status of a player to cause a cancellation of a game against Fylde.
The club deny the charges, and have confirmed they will launch an appeal against the decision.
A Southport FC statement said: “We would like to express our shock and disgust at this decision to punish Southport FC, and other National League North and South clubs, for trying to keep our players, staff and volunteers alive and healthy during this pandemic that has claimed the lives of so many people.
“We made our concerns known as regards continuing to play without testing. The National League seemingly agreed with this concern in that finally testing was made available, although this came after the season was, for us, curtailed. We were not provided with any tests for this game against Curzon. We took the decision that the lives of everybody involved with the club were more important than this individual game.”
“It is hugely disappointing that at a time when the clubs have had no income of their own whatsoever for over 12 months, and a number of clubs are clearly struggling to survive, the National League have seen fit to effectively “put the boot in” by imposing financial sanctions for games that are of no relevance at all as they have been deemed “null and void”.
The decision has been widely condemned by supporters of Southport and other clubs in the National League.
Controversy over competition arrangements has been brewing for months, after promised grants to cover finance lost due to lack of supporters were later confirmed to instead be loans after the start of the season.
Additionally, the National League was not initially covered with free coronavirus testing, unlike higher tier professional leagues.
The National League’s Chief Executive, Michael Tattersall was replaced by Mark Ives in January.
Non-League journalist Ollie Bayliss says several clubs are considering a vote of no confidence in the National League Board.