Imagine last season if Manchester City, upon winning the Premier League, had decided to refuse their entry into the Champions League because they didn’t want to travel the extra distance midweek.
This, in many ways, is similar to the situation in the Northern League currently, with teams paying an abundance of money in wages to players to win games and take leagues by storm only to refuse promotion to the Evo-Stik Division One.
Clearly there is a difference between City missing out a trip to the Bernabeu and Whitley Bay, for instance, giving a trip to Skelmersdale a miss, but there is a common theme.
Most, if not all, sports fans and players would relish the chance to pit their wits against higher quality opponents and the idea of refusing the chance would raise eyebrows but it seems to be the case in the Northern League that promotion is simply an inconvenience.
Clubs themselves argue that the extra cost of travelling from the north-east to places such as Warrington, Prescot and Burscough just isn’t sustainable on their crowd levels.
However, that said, many clubs in the league are hardly short of a bob or two.
A recent investigation by Sky Tyne and Wear found that one club in the league is spending £180,000 a year, with the vast majority of this going on player wages.
If this figure was for Darlington 1883 then it may be understandable as they can rely on big crowds and sponsorship but it’s not and this mystery club aren’t the only one spending big, with one player earning as much as £600 a week.
As expensive as the travelling would be, surely if a section of player wages were diverted towards paying these costs, then clubs could grow and you would have a fairer playing field.
Not only is the excess money in the league affecting its own quality, you also have to wonder about clubs like Blyth Spartans and Workington who would struggle to compete with wages on offer in the region from Northern League clubs.
Not one winner of the Northern League has accepted promotion since 2006 and unless there are dramatic changes, things don’t look set to be any different over the coming seasons with only Darlington, and their sizable infrastructure and big name, likely to make the step up this season if they achieve promotion.
League chairman Mike Amos said: “Money talks and we all know that. Any level of semi-professional sport it is going to talk and players will go where there is money, it is not a secret.”
It may not be a secret but the Football Association said they are “concerned” at the situation and, more than anything else, it all seems a little bit pointless.
If you were going to pump money into a club, whatever the rights and wrongs of that may be, surely it’s utterly pointless to stay in the same league, year after year.
Not only does it seem absurd from a financial point of view, it’s also baffling from a sporting perspective too.
Why lose blood, sweat and tears over a campaign just to do the same thing all over again next season?
Matt Rogerson is a writer and a press officer for Guiseley AFC. You can follow him on twitter here.