Gateshead chairman Neil Pinkerton has warned that National League clubs will go bust without intervention following a decision to delay the return of football spectators.
Pinkerton’s warning came as Dagenham managing director Steve Thompson called on the Government to deliver a £20million bail-out package to save the league’s clubs.
The Gateshead chief told the PA news agency: “Clubs will go to the wall, without a doubt. There are clubs that have invested heavily in their playing staff this off-season, and all clubs at this level have got contracted players.
“We’re no different. We’re full-time as well, so these are people’s livelihoods that you’re playing with. Yes it’s sport, but it’s a business and we need to be able to trade.
“The footballing world below League Two needs some sort of intervention to keep going, without a doubt.”
Pinkerton was responding to 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.
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.
The National League board will meet on Thursday to discuss the implications of Tuesday’s news, with Thompson also 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 PA.
“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 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.”
National League North Gateshead were able to take advantage of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme to furlough staff and save job, but that is scheduled to be wound down at around the same time as the new season is due to get under way.
Pinkerton said: “It’s a double-whammy. That runs out and you’ve got no spectators, it’s only going to take so long for the bubble to burst.”
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, while Pinkerton has called for every club’s situation to be judged on merit, with his club able to accommodate fans at the 11,750-capacity all-seater Gateshead International Stadium.
He said: “If we’re looking at 600-800 home fans in an all-seater stadium sitting down in one place for 90 minutes over two blocks of 45, how’s that any less safe than going to your local supermarket, which could have a couple of thousand people in it at any one time touching everything?
“I’m at a loss. Every club should be measured on its merits and its ability to trade.”