That’s it. As expected, League One clubs voted in favour of curtailing the season now and awarding the promotion and relegation places on a points per game basis.
It means the Imps finished 16th in the first season back in League One, our best finish since 1983/84, although it is also our first season without a trophy since 2015/16! I jest, of course, to survive at this level, given the upheaval we have faced, is a great achievement and the big challenge is to do the same again next season.
The full league table can be seen below; it doesn’t make nice reading for Tranmere or Peterborough, but it does mean we get to play Sunderland and Ipswich once again next season. It’s going to be a tough division in 2020/21, make no mistake about that, especially with relatively big sides such as Swindon and Plymouth coming up to replace Southend and Bolton.
Next season seems a long way in the future though and for now, we have unresolved issues here at the club. The first issue, as laid bare in an open letter to City fans by Clive Nates, is the issue of current season ticket refunds. Let us be very clear on this; the issue is around the current season and the games that were missed, including the fixture with Bury. As yet, no decision has been made around next season and so the club can make no comment. They’re not hiding from anything, not at all. In fact, I know the club were keen to get some sort of response out as close to the EFL decision as possible for 100% transparency. They take stick at times for various decisions, but our club is run by people who have the right intentions. There is no Sunderland or Newcastle situation here; they are open to offering a refund. In fact, Clive is very clear about fans putting their own situation first. If you are struggling thanks to the effects of the recent pandemic, you shouldn’t feel pressured into not taking back money which could help put food on the table.
However, there is now another option. The club are not just asking you to give them the money if you can afford to do so, they’re offering something back. For those who have the means to leave the money with the club, you can be rewarded either by shares in your name or by giving those shares to the Red Imps Community Trust. It is a chance for you to be recognised as someone who helped out in the time of need, much like those who bought seats back in 2002. Make no mistake, the crisis facing this football club is just as real as back then. The only difference is everyone else is in the same boat, more or less. Just because everyone else’s boat is sinking at the same time as yours doesn’t mean you should try to save yours, does it?
I’m not going to be preachy about what you should do. it isn’t my place and I don’t know what your personal situation is. What I would implore you to do, if at all possible, is take up the share option offered by the club. Personally, I’ve never been a shareholder, I’m quite excited by the prospect and can do without the money I would be able to get back, should I claim a refund. Just because I can do that doesn’t make me a better fan than a family of six who has been struggling to pay bills though. Please, if you are in the same boat as me, don’t begrudge someone else their refund if they really need to draw on it.
Lincoln City Football Club means a lot to a great many people and I’m sure our fanbase, where possible, will leave the remainder of this season’s money in the club to help ensure survival. It really is a critical time for everyone, but as the economy begins to edge out of the dark, our football club is not so buoyant. I feel, firmly, that we will come out of this in some way, but by those who can live without a refund doing so, we might come out of it a tiny bit strong and it better shape for the future.
I also believe, firmly, that those in charge of the club do appreciate what we as fans can do and that they continue to do so going forward. I’ve heard lots about how our club doesn’t care about its supporters and yet I’ve never felt myself, nor anyone I know has been treated badly by the club. I also believe that as time moves on and the board changes, this moment in time will be as important as back in 2002. Remember, anything you do now isn’t just for Clive, the board, the staff, Michael Appleton or the players; it is for this football club that we’ve cried over, that we’ve cheered on and that quite often, we’ve moaned about too. We love it, since 1984 when we finished 14th, since 1976 when we broke points records, since 1947 when a Hutchinson finished as leading scorer, since 1884 when some blokes sat in a tavern and started the whole damn thing off.
If you can help right now, find it in your heart to do so. Take the shares in your name and become even more intrinsically linked with the Imps, or do what John Reames did and hand them to the Trust. Either way, you’ll be playing your part in keeping this club alive. However, if your mortgage isn’t getting paid, or your down to one meal a day because there’s nothing in the pot, don’t risk your own livelihood.