Government WILL provide cash bailout for National League clubs

The government WILL provide an emergency cash bailout for National League clubs, meaning their season CAN start this weekend after it was plunged into doubt by the ban on spectators

  • Clubs in non-league have been handed a vital bail-out from the Government
  • With seasons due to start, there had been doubts about the financial viability 
  • Clubs in the National League, National League North and National League South are heavily dependent on revenue generated from tickets and they needed help

National League clubs have received an offer of financial aid from the Government which will help them start the season this weekend.

The future of the three leagues – the National League, the National League North and the National League South – had been in serious doubt after plans to allow spectators into grounds were shelved last week.

The 2020-21 season is due to begin on Saturday, but it was feared that without Government intervention many of the 67 clubs could have faced financial ruin if they did not have matchday revenue to rely on.

It is believed the total rescue package is in the region of £20million. 

National League clubs are to receive government funding to allow their season to commence

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is overseeing a Government bail-out to aid non-league clubs

Several clubs were vocal in their calls for a Government rescue package and talks with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) over a bailout have been fruitful, with money due to be sent over before the weekend. 

Earlier this week a letter co-signed by 17 individuals including former Football Association chairmen Greg Dyke and Lord Triesman and BBC and BT Sport pundit Robbie Savage said help was urgently needed to ward off the threat of financial collapse. 

The letter, sent to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden warned:  ‘Without any plans being made to rescue clubs, many in the EFL and others in the National League as well, are now actively preparing to make all but essential staff redundant, cease playing, close down their youth academies and community foundations, and put their business into administration,’ the letter warns.

The delayed return of fans to stadiums has hit finances of lower-league clubs incredibly hard


BBC and BT Sport pundit Robbie Savage (left) and former FA chief Greg Dyke (right) both signed the letter with clubs in the EFL standing to lose £200m without crowds this season

The letter sent to Dowden in full

We wrote to you in May this year setting out the financial crisis facing football clubs, and particularly those in the English Football League (EFL), because of the loss of match-day revenue resulting from the government’s policies to combat COVID-19. We also detailed a game plan that could be put in place to prevent this. Since then clubs have been able to sustain themselves through advance season ticket sales, solidarity payments from the Premier League, and had agreed to start playing the new season in the belief that fans would be allowed to return to stadiums this autumn.

It’s now clear that spectators will not be back in EFL grounds, even in limited numbers, for the foreseeable future. As a consequence clubs will not only lose this budgeted-for income, but will also have to refund season tickets to fans who will now be prevented from attending matches.

There has been no agreement reached by the football authorities on a bailout for clubs that need it, many of whom were already heavily indebted before the coronavirus arrived. From the statements made by ministers at DCMS questions in the House of Commons on 24 September, it’s equally clear that the government has no current proposals to provide financial support, and nor is it prepared to offer any guarantees for the future.

Without any plans being made to rescue football clubs, many in the EFL and others in the National League as well, are now actively preparing to make all but essential staff redundant, cease playing, close down their youth academies and community foundations, and put their business into administration. This could lead not only to the failure of many historic community clubs, but the collapse of the national league structure that we have known for over one hundred years. These are decisions that will be made in the coming weeks, with many clubs unable to meet their payroll obligations for next month.

There is still time to act, but not long left. The government made £1.5billion available to rescue arts and cultural organisations across the country that faced closure because of the coronavirus. We believe that football, like other well-loved professional sports in this country, is also a cultural activity. We would ask that the government now make clear what financial support it’s prepared to give before it is too late. In particular, we believe that in order for clubs to sustain themselves over the winter and keep playing, they would need to be compensated for the loss of match ticket sales. The absence of this income is not a result of their actions, but the policies that have been put in place by the government in response to a public health emergency.

We understand that you had hoped that the Premier League clubs might make a significant additional contribution to support the EFL. Whilst this would be welcome those clubs too face swingeing losses from lost ticketing receipts and falling revenues from broadcasting matches. However, it cannot be the Premier League’s sole responsibility to sort out issues arising from government policy. The government itself needs to take responsibility, or many already-embattled towns – often in areas of the country which have suffered many hardships in recent decades – will lose their last focal point.

SIGNATORIES

Damian Collins MP, former Chairman of the DCMS select committee

Charlie Methven, co-owner Sunderland FC

Lord David Triesman, former Chairman of the FA

Lord Faulkner of Worcester, Vice-President The National League

Lord Goddard of Stockport

Malcolm Clarke, Chairman of the Football Supporters Association

Robbie Savage, former player and sports broadcaster

Greg Dyke, former Chairman of the FA

Karl McCartney MP for Lincoln and Chairman of the APPG for Football

Ian Mearns MP for Gateshead and Chairman of the APPG for Football Supporters

David Amess MP for Southend West

Rehman Chishti MP for Gillingham

Damian Green MP for Ashford and member of the DCMS Select Committee

Kevin Brennan MP for Cardiff West and member of the DCMS Select Committee

 

‘This could lead not only to the failure of many historic community clubs, but the collapse of the national league structure that we have known for over one hundred years. 

‘These are decisions that will be made in the coming weeks, with many clubs unable to meet their payroll obligations for next month.’

The final amount and how the clubs will be paid is still being finalised, but it is enough money to see them through until their fans are allowed back into stadiums.

Dagenham managing director Steve Thompson said: ‘It is fantastic the Government has realised the importance of the 67 clubs of the National League.’

On September 22, Soccer Saturday presenter Jeff Stelling, a lifelong supporter of Hartlepool United, who are in the National League, warned of the perils facing clubs at that level without an injection of cash.

He wrote: ‘Clubs at National League level can’t play without crowds. 

‘I suspect this season will not happen at all and that means lost livelihoods for those involved, lost clubs for communities.’ 

The National League is set to start on Saturday, while National League North and South clubs are in FA Cup qualifying action. 

More to follow. 

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