Western Morning News

Government promises funds to non-league clubs

- MARK STANIFORTH Name.name@reachplc.com

NON-LEAGUE football clubs in the Westcountr­y, at steps three to six of the National League system, will share in a Government grant of up to £10 million to help keep them afloat through the coronaviru­s pandemic.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston announced that the grant, covering the ‘Trident’ Leagues of the Northern Premier, Isthmian Leagues and Southern Premier (including regional clubs like Truro City, Tiverton Town, Barnstaple, Bideford and Willand Rovers) and those below, will “protect the immediate future of approximat­ely 850 clubs”.

That will also include Western League clubs such as Plymouth

Parkway, Tavistock, Exmouth Town, and Buckland Athletic, as well as all step six clubs in the South West Peninsula League.

Ths news comes one week after the announceme­nt that clubs at the top end of the National League structure would only be eligible for low-interest loans, drawing criticism from a number of clubs.

However, Huddleston clarified that any National League club that can demonstrat­e they are in dire need may be rewarded with a grant on a case-by-case basis, insisting: “We will not let clubs go to the wall.”

In a statement jointly issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Sport England, Huddleston said: “We promised to support sports and target help to where it’s most needed.

“Today we continue to deliver on that with further support for National League football clubs.

“The National League has already benefited from the Government support schemes through a £10 million Government-brokered cash partnershi­p with the National Lottery, and there will be more support for the bigger clubs on the way.

“Today’s £10 million grant for lower-league clubs in steps three to six will act as a lifeline for around 850 clubs in towns and cities across England, and help these clubs through this difficult period until we can get fans back in safely.”

The season at step three and below is currently suspended until at least March 6, with ‘Trident’ Leagues officials currently balloting their clubs on the possibilit­y of abandoning the season.

But the season at steps one and two - National League and National Leagues North and South - is continuing, despite concerns expressed by some clubs that loans will not be enough to see them through the remainder of the campaign and beyond.

Clubs at steps one and two are mulling three options, which involve accepting the loans, taking grants from the National League which would itself take on the loan - potentiall­y impacting future central funding - or suspending the season.

Huddleston added: “With precious public money, we are providing financial support to the National League steps one and two in the form of loans.

“However if clubs at those levels can demonstrat­e it needs grant funding urgently to survive, we will ensure that option is available.

“We will not let clubs go to the wall. Applicatio­ns will be assessed by the independen­t board, through the same rigorous process that we apply to other sports.”

 ??  ?? > Nigel Huddleston
> Nigel Huddleston

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