National League clubs told they will receive emergency grant from government

By Dan RoanBBC sports editor

National League clubs have been told they will receive an emergency grant to enable them to start the new season this weekend.

Officials have been in talks with the government over funding to help cover the losses incurred by a ban on fans.

Last week the government scrapped plans for a partial return of spectators from 1 October.

The National League said it was hopeful a “critical financial support package” could be agreed.

National League North clubs said they did not want to begin playing without crowds, and there had been fears some would withdraw from the FA Cup to avoid triggering player contracts they could not afford to continue.

But on Tuesday clubs received an email from the league’s chief executive Michael Tattersall telling them that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) was “working at pace… to design a package of support that will give the National League the reassurance it needs”.

“This will include grants to cover essential revenue lost from fans not returning on 1 October as planned.”

Clubs were told “the government recognises the immediate pressure National League clubs are under in respect of starting their season and are committed to play resuming in a viable way”.

The size of any grant is yet to be confirmed, but BBC Sport understands the league is hoping for around £2-3m per month.

Tattersall wrote that more details were needed, but that the update was intended to “provide reassurance to the National League ahead of the season starting this weekend”.

The National League is due to begin on Saturday, 3 October with the regional sixth-tier North on 5 October and South on 6 October.

On Tuesday the Premier League held what were described as “measured” talks over a possible £250m bail-out of the English Football League (EFL), but no agreement was reached.

Clubs are known to have concerns over their own finances, and will hold a further meeting next Tuesday.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden had said he was “hopeful” a deal could be struck this week, but the Premier League is known to see such a timeframe as unrealistic.

Meanwhile, it has been estimated 300,000 jobs could be lost in the next six months from the UK’s sport and fitness sector.

The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) says there are likely to be a “significant number of closures” of gyms and leisure centres in coming months.

“It is vital for the government to recognise that saving professional sports clubs (while also hugely important) is a totally different challenge from that of protecting the grassroots sport and physical activity sector.”

Sports and leisure organisations have been given until today to tell the DCMS how much they estimate they will lose as the government works on an emergency funding package.