And so the wait goes on...
I’m writing this on Tuesday night, sat in my study at home rather than in the press box at the New Manor Ground where I would have been had the shenanigans with Ilkeston FC been sorted by now, or indeed not happened at all.
I’ll stick a quick disclaimer in here to say that by the time you read this, Ilkeston might well have been reinstated and will play on Saturday, but as I write, that isn’t the case.
I wasn’t working on Monday but my colleague Graham Smyth managed to speak to Robins CEO Nigel Harrop, although what Harrop is prepared to say remains limited at this stage for the often mentioned legal reasons.
As was the case last week, even I still can’t say a whole lot about what I gather to be the main reasons behind the league’s suspension and ensuing chaos, although the Northern Premier League’s statement and charge sheet that was put out on Monday raised more than a few eyebrows, and not just locally.
On the face of it, hauling Ilkeston over the coals for not fulfilling fixtures when it was the league that banned them from doing so in the first place seems pretty absurd.
But it would appear that the league wanted to see a little more evidence than they’ve received so far that Ilkeston are doing their bit to resolve the outstanding issues, whatever they may be.
If it’s that they owe clubs money and have to pay them, then seemingly the Che Adams money needs to hit the Ilkeston bank account first.
If that hasn’t happened, one has to ask why not, given it’s been a while now since the Adams transfer happened and I’d assume Sheffield United and the FA will have authorised the money transfer.
If (yes, another ‘if’) the ongoing problems are to do with the sell-on clause itself, and that is the reason they haven’t had the cash yet, then we’re probably getting a bit closer to what the real problem is.
Have the funds been frozen? Who or what has caused that to happen? Is there outside interference from a third party which is causing the whole thing to be held up and in the process threaten Ilkeston FC’s very existence? Who knows?
All we can say is that as this drags on you can’t help but fear more and more that the NPL’s patience will begin to wear thinner and that other clubs in the Premier Division will also start kicking up a fuss given the havoc it’s playing with their own fixture arrangements, not only now but also at a later date when all these games get rearranged.
The Robins are already four games behind in what is a congested season, so when other postponements later in the season are taken into account I think there will be plenty of extra midweek matches on the horizon.
Someone, be it an individual or more than one person, is to blame for all of this and should things really hit rock bottom - namely Ilkeston being thrown out of the league and with it their future being put in jeopardy - it’ll be among my many jobs to work out just whose fault it is and to hold them to account for what has happened.
My hands are tied a bit at the moment, otherwise I’d be aiming to get everything I can ascertain as fact down in print for you to read about, but as I’ve said before and as Ilkeston FC themselves have alluded to, there are clearly some legal risks attached to that and right now I’m not prepared to put myself or anyone else unnecessarily in danger of getting into trouble.
So we shall have to sit and wait. Football is mostly about what happens on the pitch and that really should be all that matters, particularly at this level, but once again politics, legal wrangles and subsequently angry supporters are at the forefront when really we should be talking about what Paul Holland and his squad are doing.
This whole saga is having a hugely detrimental effect on Ilkeston’s season before they’ve even kicked a ball. They’re barely getting any match time in, players might be starting to think about leaving and there’s the aforementioned fixture congestion that will inevitably follow. You could almost say the campaign will be a damage limitation exercise before it’s begun.
Ilkeston FC will go before the NPL on Wednesday of next week to answer their numerous charges and discover their fate.
I sincerely hope that the worst case scenario will ‘only’ be points deductions and fines, rather than any possibility of the Robins being thrown out of the league, but if they still haven’t played by then they will be six games behind and surely the powers that be will find it hard to give them any more leeway.
I, along with all supporters and those in the wider football community, sincerely hope this all ends well and as soon as possible.