National League: 17 clubs group together to call for season to be curtailed unless Covid funding is found

Group calling for season to end includes Darlington, Dulwich Hamlet, Gateshead, Hereford, AFC Telford and Kettering Town; the 'Trident' Leagues of the Northern Premier, Southern Premier and Isthmian Leagues and those below boosted by £10m Government grant

The National League received £10m from the DCMS to allow the season to start back in October, but that has now run out
Image: The National League received £10m from the DCMS to allow the season to start back in October

A group of 17 National League clubs have called for the season to be curtailed unless "adequate and fair funding" is handed out to go towards coronavirus testing and to offset losses.

It comes one week after the announcement that clubs in the Level 5 National League and Level 6 National League North/South would only be eligible for low-interest loans, drawing criticism from a number of clubs.

A statement, signed by representatives from 17 clubs including Darlington, Dulwich Hamlet, Gateshead and Hereford, read: "Loans are merely an extension to our life support and therefore foolhardy.

"We have yet to receive any assurances as to how we may mitigate against our inability to test our employees and volunteers for COVID, or against the government's insistence that we trade whilst insolvent.

"With no apparent end in sight, this excruciating pandemic has us all facing financial imbalances of varying degrees.

The English football pyramid

Premier League Level 1
Championship Level 2
League One Level 3
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National League Level 5
National League North/South Level 6

"All of this is adding to additional stress and uncertainty that could and should have been avoidable.

"Having since been ordered to re-schedule our postponed games in accordance with the National League rules, we must now reiterate our stance.

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"Without adequate and fair funding towards COVID testing and to offset against the loss of income, we are unable to uphold the integrity of the football pyramid and insist that the season is curtailed no later than Friday, February 5, to allow all clubs to be assessed for grants."

All 66 clubs at Steps 1 and 2 of the National League system will be given information about funding available as part of the Government's Sport Winter Survival Package during talks with Sport England on Friday.

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Sky Sports News' Rebecca Williams explains that non-league clubs in steps three to six will be boosted by a £10m grant from the government.

They will be advised on how to apply for a low-interest loan and learn the exact criteria for receiving a grant.

The meeting could be decisive in persuading clubs whether to play on or bring the season to an end as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll at the levels of the football pyramid below the EFL.

The National League's board is also understood to be in the process of drafting a resolution to go out to clubs early next week on the outcome of the season.

One of the options likely to be open to clubs is curtailment, with the voting process on which resolution should be carried also still to be decided.

On Wednesday it was announced that Non-League clubs below Level 6 of English football were to share a Government grant of up to £10m to help keep them afloat through the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government announced on Wednesday that a provisional £11m in low-interest loans was being made available to the Step 1 and 2 clubs, with grants available where loans are demonstrated to be unaffordable for individual clubs in line with the support offered for other sports.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said at the time: "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."

Clubs in Steps 1 and 2 received a cash injection from the National Lottery in October in order to begin the season, in a commercial deal brokered by the Government.

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