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Dover Athletic to appeal after National League expunges their season for failing to fulfil fixtures during pandemic

Dover say they have been "hung out to dry" by the National League after they were one of 16 teams across three divisions punished for failing to fulfil fixtures this season due to the financial impact of coronavirus

The National League received £10m from the DCMS to allow the season to start back in October, but that has now run out

Dover Athletic say they have been "hung out to dry" by the National League after their season was expunged for failing to fulfil their fixtures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The division's bottom side, who have only played 15 times this season compared to at least 25 by the rest, will play no further part in the current campaign and have seen their results wiped out.

They have also been handed a 12-point deduction to start with next season and a £40,000 fine for being in breach of league rules.

These are the findings of an independent panel commissioned by the League, who have also handed suspended points penalties to 16 clubs in tier two for not fulfilling fixtures, as well as punishing Kings Lynn and Southport for breaching coronavirus protocols.

Dover and the others were deemed to have not had "just cause" to miss fixtures since the turn of the year, after the cessation of grants led to a financial crisis at numerous clubs.

The Kent club have told Sky Sports News they will appeal to the Football Association, and have also confirmed they are seeking legal advice.

Dover's owner and chairman Jim Parmenter told SSN: "We believe we demonstrated just cause, backed up by lawyers and insolvency practitioners, but I don't think the league has taken that into account and they haven't explained why they have deemed us not to have just cause.

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"We have been hung out to dry and made an example of to the rest of the league with this draconian punishment. They are trying to implement a rule book that is not designed to deal with issues like a pandemic.

"We've stuck our necks out while there are seven or eight other clubs in a similar situation scared stiff of the type of action the league has taken against us.

"We have demonstrated we cannot afford to continue, nor finance a loan, so how does issuing us with a £40,000 fine help football?"

The National League's statement said: "The panel had regard to financial information provided by Dover Athletic and fully respected the responsibility of the club's directors under company law. However, the panel also had to consider the integrity of the competition and the actions of Dover in relation to the other 22 Clubs that continue to incur much costs as they fulfill their fixtures.

"In view of the current financial situation and in order to reflect the approach taken in other cases of breaches of rule 8.39, the independent panel reduced the initial fine by 20 per cent to £40,000."

Dulwich Hamlet were one of the National League South clubs to have been given a suspended points deduction and a fine for failing to complete fixtures in a season that has already been declared null and void, and the club said on Twitter: "Well, we're not quite sure what to say about this one.

"DHFC have been fined £8,000 and given a suspended eight-point deduction for failure to fulfil fixtures when the funded stopped and we were awaiting the decision to null and void the season. Thanks, Vanarama National League."

The League statement continued: "Given the extremely unusual circumstances that have affected football at all levels and the financial pressures the absence of spectators has brought to bear on clubs, the panel expressed its sympathy with the clubs' predicament.

"However, the panel believes it must also take regard of the fact that the majority of clubs continued to fulfil fixtures and incur much costs until the League ended on February 19."

Bath City were another club fined and issued a suspended points penalty and they said they are "disappointed to learn of the verdict handed out by the National League... and the fact that it has seen fit to hand out fines at a time when we and other clubs are fighting for survival in the face of the financial impacts of Covid-19."

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