CHESTER FC's National League North season will remain suspended this weekend after their scheduled opponents called off the game amid an ongoing funding row with the National League.

The Blues were due to play their first game in two weeks on Saturday, after the season had been put on ice by the National League.

But opponents Kettering Town have informed the club they will not be participating in the fixture.

It comes as a growing number of clubs in the National League North and South – including Kettering Town – have written to the National League, calling for reassurances that all clubs will receive the financial support needed to see them through the season, as well as fully funded Covid testing being implemented.

Previously, Chester FC's Board had recommended all fixtures in the North and South divisions be suspended for a further week to allow clubs to focus on National League resolutions on whether the season should progress, or be ended.

A lengthy statement on Kettering Town's website has detailed the reasons why the club had "reluctantly" taken the decision not to play the football match on Saturday.

It said: "The 2020/21 season was started following extensive discussions with the National League, taking into account everyone's concerns over the pandemic and the likely outcome that games would be played behind closed doors.

"The outcome of these discussions was that it was not financially viable for clubs to operate without financial support, which was ultimately provided by grants from The National Lottery.

"At the time, the message presented to clubs via the National League, was clear. Grants would be paid from October through December (inclusive) and that a further review would take place in December to see if the situation had improved and if not grants would continue.

"The season started with the country gripped by the pandemic with matches being played behind closed doors.

"Roll forward to January 2021 and Covid is still rampant across the country and gates remain closed to fans. Everything therefore pointed to the expectation that grants would continue.

"Unfortunately there has now been a change in approach and we as a club are being offered the opportunity to apply for a loan rather than be awarded a grant. The original concept of the grant system was to ensure that clubs could survive these unusual circumstances, with the clear aim of ensuring that no club should be financially impacted by starting the season.

"The introduction of a loan scheme means that every club who takes one will be impacted, potentially for the next 20 years.

"The board has worked hard over the past five years to get the club's finances into a better position and we do not want to return to the days that risked the club's existence.

"If we had known at the start of the season that there would be a back track on promises made, then we would not have started it and would have taken the consequences.

"The board contacted Sport England last week, making our position clear in that we need grants and not loans, with information supporting our stance. Why would any business take a loan to continue to operate? Basically we are being subjected to a restriction of trade without any viable financial support.

"The board have therefore reluctantly made the decision that we will NOT participate in any future matches until this situation is resolved, either with the grants we need being made available or the gates reopening to fans.

"This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we genuinely hope that this matter can be resolved quickly. We will be working hard to secure the grants we need in the next week or so but the final decision and the process is out of our hands and will take time.

"All being well we will have minimal games to reschedule but we can't take to the pitch until the final decision is known, as to do so would simply run up financial commitments that are not in the club's best interest.

"We appreciate that this update will come as a shock to many of our fans but we hope you understand the reasons for the stance. We want to keep Kettering Town FC alive and that means making difficult decisions."

In response, Chester FC said on its site: "We have been in regular contact with Kettering through the week and recognise the current uncertainty within the National League places clubs under extremely difficult conditions.

"The Board is sympathetic to Kettering’s plight and supportive of any club unable to continue playing in light of the Government’s decision that future funding will be in the form of loans not grants, contrary to the assurances given to clubs when agreeing to commence the season."