National League clubs including Dulwich Hamlet to look for FA financial aid

Sports Desk (19 March, 2020)

The National League has suspended fixtures until April 3 leaving clubs in financial distress

35527Champion Hill. Photo: Duncan Palmer Photography

The National League are set to ask the Football Association for £17million to help clubs during the coronavirus crisis.

A report in The Athletic says it’s the idea of Dulwich Hamlet chairman Ben Clasper, with 68 clubs across the National League and National Leagues North and South facing extreme financial difficulties with their primary source of income, match-day gates, currently cut off.

This week the National League announced it had suspended all fixtures until April 3.

The majority of players in the fifth and sixth tiers, including the Hamlet’s, will see their contracts expire on May 3. It is unlikely the season can be finished before then, raising questions over how clubs could afford to pay players to bring the campaign to a 46- or 42-game conclusion if it goes further into the summer.

The Athletic report that the chief executive of the National League, Michael Tattersall, will tell the FA that clubs will be in deep financial peril and need a cash boost to pay their staff.

“The airline industry has gone down 75 per cent, which is very, very unfortunate for them,” Tattersall told The Athletic. “We are down 100 per cent. We haven’t got any matches. Our income is almost down to zero for the time being.

“But we’ve got a lot of employees to look after. If we’re going to look after people, we need an intervention. We need to try to establish football, or at least non-League football, as one of the industries, the sectors, that the government regards as being an acute case.”

There were 2,376 fans at Champion Hill last weekend to see Gavin Rose’s Dulwich come from behind to defeat Hemel Hempstead 2-1 to keep them out of the relegation zone.

Clasper told The Athletic that expected income of £325,000 between now and June 30 could be lost. The club need £230,000 between now and then to stay solvent.

Clasper added: “The key to this plan is that non-League clubs should be able to mothball and hibernate from the end of the season. People take two months off and they all come back. Obviously a lot of clubs do have activity during the summer, but it’s not business-critical.

“The thing about the National League is that no one owes any tax. Everyone is fully paid up. They’re not run like top leagues. They’re not run on debt or not paying the tax bill or deferring payments.

“The National League does a really good job of keeping on top of the clubs. But they are hand-to-mouth businesses, all of them. You know that from talking to them, at the end of the month they are all having to figure out to make sure they can balance the books. You cannot whip away fifteen per cent to 25 per cent of the income stream. No club is working close to a margin like that.”

Tattersall said: “We will take it to the FA this week. This is the focus of our league now. To communicate with government and with the FA in order to make the economic case.

“What we want is that when we come back out of the coronavirus, we want football to return. The football club will return a lot of benefit to its community, but if it’s sacked all its players, and hit financial distress, we won’t be able to switch it back on. If we want to switch it back on, we need money now to preserve it, so it can come back into operation quickly. If they don’t have that money, it won’t be there.”

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