National League clubs at steps 3-6 to share ‘lifeline’ £10m Government grant
By Mark Staniforth, PA
Non-league football clubs at steps three to six of the National League system will share in a Government grant of up to £10million to help keep them afloat through the coronavirus pandemic.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston announced that the grant, covering the ‘Trident’ Leagues of the Northern Premier, Southern Premier and Isthmian Leagues and those below, will “protect the immediate future of approximately 850 clubs”.
It comes one week after the announcement that clubs at the top end of the National League structure would only be eligible for low-interest loans, drawing criticism from a number of clubs.
However, Huddleston clarified that any National League club that can demonstrate they are in dire need may be rewarded with a grant on a case-by-case basis, insisting: “We will not let clubs go to the wall.”
In a statement jointly issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Sport England, Huddleston said: “We promised to support sports and target help to where it’s most needed.
“Today we continue to deliver on that with further support for National League football clubs.
“The National League has already benefited from the Government support schemes through a £10million Government-brokered cash partnership with the National Lottery, and there will be more support for the bigger clubs on the way.
“Today’s £10million grant for lower-league clubs in steps three to six will act as a lifeline for around 850 clubs in towns and cities across England, and help these clubs through this difficult period until we can get fans back in safely.”
The season at step three and below is currently suspended until at least March 6, with ‘Trident’ Leagues officials currently balloting their clubs on the possibility of abandoning the season.
But the season at steps one and two is continuing, despite concerns expressed by some clubs that loans will not be enough to see them through the remainder of the campaign and beyond.
Clubs at steps one and two are mulling three options, which involve accepting the loans, taking grants from the National League which would itself take on the loan – potentially impacting future levels of central funding – or suspending the season.
Huddleston added: “With precious public money, we are providing financial support to the National League steps one and two in the form of loans.
“However 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. Applications will be assessed by the independent board, through the same rigorous process that we apply to other sports.”