National League clubs left in limbo, says Kidderminster Harriers chief

Kidderminster Harriers are keen for the National League season to start as planned next month – despite the fact matches must be played behind closed doors.

Aggborough the home of Kidderminster Harriers
Aggborough the home of Kidderminster Harriers

The league delayed its scheduled start date until October 3, in order to coincide with the proposed return of spectators to sporting events.

Those plans have now been thrown into disarray by yesterday’s announcement fans may not be allowed back for another six months.

The National League board is due to meet tomorrow to discuss the possibility of postponing the start of the campaign.

But Harriers, who play in National League North, are among a group of clubs eager for the season to begin as planned, having gone nearly seven months without a competitive fixture.

Club bosses have contacted the league to suggest the setting up of a streaming service, similar to the iFollow programme used by the Football League, which would allow fans to watch online while also providing some income.

Harriers have spent the past few months getting ready for football’s return and are reluctant to see any further delay.

They are also supporting calls for National League North to be reclassified as ‘recreational’ sport, which would allow supporters to return in a limited capacity.

The division is currently classed as ‘elite’ level, meaning Harriers and other clubs must follow the same guidelines as those in the Premier League despite having only a fraction of the revenues.

Those in the division below are considered to be playing at ‘recreational’ level and are allowed up to 600 fans in attendance.

“We are classed as being elite sport without having any of the financial benefit of being elite sport,” chief executive Neil Male told the Express & Star. “Those clubs in the National League Premier have a deal with BT Sport, but we see very little of that.

“We are stuck in no-man’s land. Clubs in the division below are able to admit supporters, but we can’t have any.”

Male believes those at the top of the sport must now offer support to those clubs lower down the league who are facing an uncertain future.

“When you look at the TV rights in the Premier League and the amount which trickles down, so far we have seen diddly squat,” he said.

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

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

“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.

“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 am fearful of clubs going out of business. There are livelihoods at stake.”

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