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Dagenham’s Steve Thompson makes plea for Government help in the National Leagues

Sport Coronavirus – Saturday 14th March
(Image credit: Martin Rickett)

Dagenham managing director Steve Thompson has called for the Government to deliver a £20million bail-out package to save National League clubs.

The National League, National League North and National League South are due to begin their seasons on October 3, which was set to coincide with the planned return of spectators.

However, the Government’s announcement on Tuesday that it could be another six months before fans are allowed in stadiums due to a rise in coronavirus cases has now put that in doubt.

The National League board will meet on Thursday to discuss the implications of Tuesday’s news, with Thompson fearing some clubs will become extinct.

“I believe that a package of between £15-20million for the National League would enable those clubs to start behind closed doors,” he told the PA news agency.

“The clubs are going to need this assistance from the Government. It is only the Government that can give us this money, there is no point going to the Premier League again, they have got their own problems with this.

“We can’t always be expecting the Premier League to bail us out. This is a Government restriction on us being able to operate.

The National Leagues may not be able to start without fans in the stadiums

The National Leagues may not be able to start without fans in the stadiums (Sean Dempsey/PA)

“They now need to step up. They stepped up before with the furlough and it was fantastic. We need this support to keep our clubs alive.

“I would hope that this money would help replicate what we are losing on a matchday.

“Whatever they are considering we need to be told very, very quickly. This is a plea to the Government to support the 67 clubs in the National League that are so important to their local communities.

“I am fearful, I can’t say that for certain, but I am fearful of clubs going out of business. There are livelihoods at stake, there are communities at stake.”

Thompson believes money from the Government would allow clubs to set up a streaming service, similar to the one used in the EFL, to allow fans to pay to watch games.

He added: “You can set up a streaming service reasonably quickly. I am doing it for Dagenham, but that was on the basis of having home support.

Fans have not seen Dagenham's Victoria Road for some time

Fans have not seen Dagenham’s Victoria Road for some time (PA)

“It was to give a service and raise some income from the away supporters who weren’t going to be allowed in to our ground because of the restrictions on numbers.

“As soon as the restrictions on Saturday 3pm kick-offs was lifted about two weeks ago I immediately went into action and have got cameras being installed tomorrow. It can be done but clubs are going to need this assistance from Government.”