The Vanarama National League will require a government bailout to survive the coronavirus outbreak, according to Dagenham managing director Steve Thompson.
Clubs are being hit hard financially by the suspension of the leagues and the National League is not in a position to offer a relief package to its members, as the English Football League announced it will do on Wednesday.
Thompson says clubs in the National League, National League North and National League South will need a total of £15million to £20m to survive and revealed talks are ongoing with the Football Association.
Following a Board meeting held today, the National League has decided to suspend the competition until at least 3rd April 2020.— Dagenham & Redbridge (@Dag_RedFC) March 16, 2020
The full statement can be found here â¬ï¸https://t.co/LqECZt43lD #COYDâï¸ https://t.co/xbnoC7gfpW pic.twitter.com/sRC8FmKmvn
“It is going to require government help,” he told the PA news agency. “The biggest worry is that so many non-league clubs, not just in the National League… they are integral parts of their community, the fabric of their community. It worries me if these clubs are lost, what will happen going forward.
“A case is being made through the FA. We need to be in line with the Premier League, the EFL and the FA.
“There needs to be a concentrated effort. I don’t think we can expect a bailout from the Premier League or FA, so it needs to be government led.
“I think the government realises that when we do eventually get through this, non-league clubs and League One and League Two clubs are going to be part of the fightback for our communities.
“I think that is recognised, exactly how that support can be given I don’t know.
“The National League are trying to get figures together, this can’t be set in stone but the sort of figures I am hearing at the moment will be £15million to £20million.”
The fallout to the game shutting down has already been felt, with National League club Barnet making 60 people redundant, while Scottish Premiership club Hearts have asked staff to take a 50 per cent pay cut.
“We have got a situation where we have got no income coming in at all now,” Thompson added. “As well as the football, all our bars and function suites are closed.
“That means there are a lot of staff on zero-hour contracts who have now got no future income. I am now trying to work through what the implications are for the players and our full-time staff.
“We have gone from having reasonable income to no income and that is a massive, massive job.
“There will come a time, very very quickly for a lot of clubs, where they can’t pay, not only wages but bills.
“I don’t know what will happen, but I don’t think anyone will know what will happen. But there is so much work done in the communities by football clubs, something has to be done so we don’t lose that.”
We are going to be kidding ourselves if we don't think we are going to lose somebody. That is the devastating thing about it.Dagenham director Steve Thompson
Much of the lifeblood of the non-league games are volunteers who are older and are now classed as vulnerable to the virus.
That means it may take longer for non-league to resume, with Thompson saying it is inevitable that clubs will “lose” staff to the illness.
“There are a lot of non-league clubs who have lots of volunteers and a lot of those people are older and vulnerable,” he added.
“I really, really worry how many of those we are going to lose. This is going to be such a shock to the system, it is not going to be quick.
“It is my own personal view that we are not going to see football played at our level before August or September at the very earliest.
“We have got to be mindful, all of us are going to lose somebody. People that are involved with clubs will get the virus and the nature of non-league… a lot of those people are older people, in the vulnerable groups.
“We are going to be kidding ourselves if we don’t think we are going to lose somebody. That is the devastating thing about it.”