11:43AM, Wednesday 30 September 2020
Maidenhead United CEO Jon Adams has said that there’s little alternative but for National League clubs to kick off the season as planned on Saturday, adding that he was slowly coming to terms with the possibility fans wouldn’t be able to watch the side all season.
It’s reported that National League clubs have now been told they will receive an emergency grant from Government, after plans to bring supporters back into elite club grounds were scrapped last week with COVID-19 cases on the rise.
Officials have been in talks with government over funding to help cover the losses incurred by fans not being allowed into grounds and, although the size of the grant is yet to be confirmed, BBC Sport understands the league is hoping for around £2-3million per month.
The league’s chief executive Michael Tattersall has told clubs the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) was working at pace to design a package of support that will give the National League the reassurance it needs. It will include grants to cover essential revenue lost from fans not returning on October 1.
Maidenhead are one of many clubs that have been lobbying the league and Government over the return of fans to grounds. They also asked former PM Theresa May to make representations on their behalf to bring through a financial support package to tide clubs over.
Adams believes around £20million is needed from Government to support the whole of the National League structure.
“We’ve got no alternative other than to get on with the season really,” said Adams. “The squad is ready to go. They’re all employed and there’s no reason for us not to start. The challenge is if you keep delaying, you’re just pushing the problem further down the road. This season is already going to be relatively compact and if you delayed it further you might have to extend it and then extend players’ contracts as well.
“But that doesn’t undermine the message from the National League to Government that football at our level is in a very challenge place. The loss of supporters and match day income, and everything that’s associated with that, the hospitality, the bar, catering outlets, sponsorship income. That will have a massive impact on us and maybe a bigger impact on other clubs.
“There is no doubt there needs to be some level of intervention to help clubs through this period.
“We were very lucky to benefit from the government funding that was available for the first round of the pandemic, but the new funding they announced last week is not something we can really benefit from.
“I think there’s a strong argument to say the government has invested and supported wider cultural facilities, for example the £1.5billion they gave to the arts and cultural sector while there’s been nothing for sport at this stage.
“With clubs like ours we’re more than just a football club. We’re an important community resource. For a relatively small investment in the context of all the money that’s been invested across the board they can secure the long-term future of clubs like ours. Because the reality of the situation is that there may not be supporters in the ground at all this season.”
He added: “We are lobbying Theresa May to make representations on our behalf to the DCMS. I don’t think there’s any guarantee that we’ll have the comfort of financial support at this time, but the really important thing is that we have that comfort provided relatively soon.Adams added: “With the announcement of new restrictions and the likelihood they could be in place for six months, we’ve had to work on the basis there won’t be any supporters in the ground for the whole of the season and that puts a big hole in our business basically.
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