National League in talks over rescue for clubs ‘in dire straits’
National League clubs are in talks with the Government over a rescue package and want matches streamed online to generate income and save their season.
Chairmen from the fifth tier of English football met yesterday for crisis talks, with their season set to start on Oct 3 but supporters unable to attend matches until at least March, denying clubs income from gate receipts.
“In recognition of the financial uncertainty facing its member clubs, the National League is actively engaged with government, with the assistance of the Football Association, to secure a critical financial support package, and it is hoped this can be announced very soon,” read a statement from the league. “It is imperative the revenue shortfall caused by the pause to the safe return of spectators is responsibly addressed so each club can operate sustainably over the course of the forthcoming season.”
One proposal is for a central streaming platform to broadcast all matches, giving fans the chance to watch games for a fee. Clubs will also push for financial help from the Premier League and the Government, with a suggestion they should be VAT exempt. The absence of fans for six months has put National League clubs in a situation where they need to decide on how to complete the season.
It is understood that the three options discussed were delaying the season, cancelling the season or playing without fans. While there is a determination to get the 2020-21 season played, there are concerns about the implications of continuing with no income for clubs.
It is feared clubs will run out of money to stage games within months. Clubs are aware they cannot legally trade insolvently, meaning they must have enough money to see them through until fans return. John Croot, the Chesterfield chief executive, said the National League needed £3million a month to function and has called for assistance from the Government.
“It’s devastating for the National League,” he told the BBC. “We can’t cancel the season, we have to play football. The National League as a whole needs around £20million and it needs money quickly. Clubs are in real dire straits.”