Na­tional League in talks over res­cue for clubs ‘in dire straits’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Mike McGrath

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.”

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