NATIONAL LEAGUE clubs will be asked on Monday to vote on two proposals – and it is still far from certain whether the National League North season will restart next week as currently planned.

National League general manager Mark Ives has told clubs that two separate proposals will be presented to them for voting on Monday – one for the National League clubs, and another for National League North and South clubs.

With the huge furore over whether ongoing funding should be in the form of grants or loans – and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport adamant that funding will be as loans – the feeling is that National League North clubs such as Darlington and Spennymoor Town will be asked if they want to end the season.

Sixteen clubs, including Darlington, have released a statement dismissing the use of loans – which they say will add to a burden of debt for as long as 20 years as well as making them trade illegally while insolvent – and also want the league to pay for much-needed Covid testing.

“Loans are merely an extension to our life support and therefore foolhardy,” they said. “We have yet to receive any assurances as to how we may mitigate against our inability to test our employees and volunteers for Covid, or against the Government's insistence that we trade whilst insolvent.

“With no apparent end in sight, this excruciating pandemic has us all facing financial imbalances of varying degrees. All of this is adding to additional stress and uncertainty that could and should have been avoidable.

“Having since been ordered to re-schedule our postponed games in accordance with National League rules, we must reiterate our stance. Without adequate and fair funding towards Covid testing and to offset against the loss of income, we are unable to uphold the integrity of the football pyramid and insist that the season is curtailed no later than Friday, February 5th, to allow all clubs to be assessed for grants.”

Representatives of many National League clubs also met with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on Thursday morning, and they explained the background to recent events and their strong reservations about trading while insolvent if the league continues. Clubs have also been invited to a webinar by Nigel Huddleston from the DCMS to discuss loan support.

DCMS said last week it was untrue that the National League had ever been promised all grants and added that the league had been “unable to substantiate that claim”.

It is also understood there is frustration within Government at the length of time the National League has taken to engage with the process.

An £11m package of very low interest, long-term loans has been offered, and Huddleston continues to state that grants could be provided to those who could demonstrate exceptional hardship, adding: “We will not let clubs go to the wall.”

The Government's Winter Survival Package for all sports is worth £300m in total, and is made up primarily of low-interest loans but also some grants.

Meanwhile, Northern League clubs have been told they can apply for Football Foundation grants to help pay bills for utlities, insurance and pitch maintenance – but not players’ wages – up to a maximum of £10,000 for First Division clubs and £7.500 in Division Two.