Published: 12:00, 05 February 2021
| Updated: 13:06, 05 February 2021
Ebbsfleet United are without a game on Saturday after opponents Bath City pulled out of the National South fixture.
League games are expected to restart this weekend following a two-week suspension. City are one of several National League North and South clubs to have put their names to a statement demanding a fully funded Covid testing regime to be in place before fixtures restart. The league, meanwhile, are still to announce a decision on whether it will be declared null and void.
Fleet say they offered to assist with operational costs that Bath would have incurred in playing the match but their opponents are unwilling to fulfil the fixture.
A statement from Ebbsfleet, whose last game was against Slough Town on January 19, said: ”We have been advised by the league that Bath City FC have chosen not to fulfil their fixture tomorrow (Saturday).
“The past two weeks have been full of uncertainty and we would like to acknowledge and thank all of our staff, players and volunteers for their understanding whilst we await confirmation of matches at late notice. Importantly, we would like to thank our supporters for continued understanding during a very difficult season.
“Our match on January 23rd against Chelmsford was postponed the day before due to the two-week season suspension, and now tomorrow’s match with similar short notice.
“We have reached out to Bath City all week seeking updates and this morning offered support for their operational costs in order to proceed with tomorrow’s fixture.
“The National League have been clear and given guidance all week around this weekend’s fixtures. Bath City have made the decision to not play, and we respect each club ultimately will make those decisions as they see fit.
“We have made efforts to rearrange future fixtures for tomorrow; however, the short notice has proven prohibitive and this has not been possible.
“We await news on our home fixture versus Slough Town scheduled for Tuesday evening.
“Our position has remained consistent that we feel the season should continue and we have voted accordingly in the League resolutions.
“It is our hope that the voting process will be completed urgently so that clarity is achieved.”
Bath City played Dorking Wanderers in a friendly last week during the halt to the league programme.
They recently put their name to a statement along with others which says that the “clubs support the re-commencement of all viable fixtures until the results of the resolution are known, but only when both clubs participating in a fixture are in agreement and when there is a fully funded COVID testing regime in place, as both the NL and it’s member clubs have a duty of care for the safety of players and staff.
“Clubs who are unable to commit to fixtures should continue to have their season held in suspense by the league and do so without fear of sanctions.
“Furthermore, we have agreed to submit our votes on the resolutions to the National League as soon as reasonably practical and implore all clubs at Steps 1 & 2 to do likewise.
“Any delay or abstaining from voting would be damaging for the clubs in the most urgent situations.
“We must finish the season with all 66 clubs in existence.”
The club say their decision not to play is with the unanimous backing of the Bath City Supporters Society Committee and overwhelming support at a recent fans' Q&A.
They say: "We do not intend to play league fixtures until further notice while the future of the season remains uncertain.
"Everyone at the club from the manager and players to officials and, especially, the supporters and volunteers, has worked tirelessly to ensure that we can have a viable Club for years to come. We also have a £1m debt that we aim to clear via the redevelopment project, but this has been delayed by the planning issues. On that basis we are not prepared to take on new debt to complete this season nor play matches while we await the outcome of the voting.
"We are deeply sorry it has come to this, but we feel we have been given no choice by the league process and the realities of the situation we are in. We would like to thank Jerry Gill (the City manager), the staff and players for their understanding – like them we would much rather be playing football and look forward to when it is once again viable to do so."
Fixtures have been suspended for two weeks and clubs were asked to vote on their stance on Monday over whether to play on or null and void the campaign, but they have 28 days in which to respond. Bath City are currently fifth from bottom in National League South.