A National League club chairman has stated that his side have two weeks to avoid going out of existence with today’s news making it even tougher to survive.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed plans for fans to return to watch live sport events in England from 1st of October will not go ahead.
This is because the country is preparing for potentially a second lockdown with coronavirus cases rapidly increasing once again, piling yet more misery onto 2020.
In an address to the Commons on Tuesday, he announced new restrictions for the country and those included the halting of the phased return of fans.
“We will not be able to do this from October 1 and I recognise the implications for our sports clubs, which are the life and soul of our communities,” he added.
“The chancellor and the culture secretary are working urgently on what we can do now to support them.”
The prime minister also said current restrictions are likely to remain in place for the next six months.
Chairman Jim Parmenter gives an update after the Government announced this morning that they have paused their plans to bring crowds back to ‘elite’ football from October 1 after a rise in Covid-19 cases.
Whites are due to start their National League campaign against Notts County at Crabble on Saturday, October 3.
A surprised and disappointed Chairman said: “While the government have communicated with the nation, there has been no direct engagement with football clubs by them, the FA or National League – we still do not know what the plans are.
“The board have been working hard to ensure the club stays viable, although this is another setback to our efforts and inevitably this will involve further consultation with our staff.
“Supporters can be assured that we are doing everything we can to ensure the survival of the club and we are taking every possible step to ensure we are ready for when fans are able to come back to the ground.
“At present , we do not know what the plans for the League season are, but we believe that the most likely outcome is a delay to the start of the fixtures.
“Unless funding is provided by the government, football behind closed doors is not sustainable at our level.
“We will oppose any attempt to start the season behind closed doors.”
“Football has to get up and running otherwise I don’t know if there is any light at the end of the tunnel.”
— KentOnline Sport (@KentOnlineSport) September 22, 2020
As previously communicated, season ticket payments are fully protected and full refunds will be given, so fans do not need to worry.
The same goes for shirt purchases, which will be delivered as planned and available within the next couple of weeks, subject to our kit supplier not being effected by lockdown closure or delays.
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It was a few months ago that saw Parmenter warn that they could become the first professional club to fold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The National League’s 2020/21 season was only going to resume if and when fans would be allowed back into stadiums.
However Tuesday’s decision may be the final nail in the coffin for the club , who can’t continue if they have no matchday income to pay monthly bills of about £80,000.
It will be this coming Thursday that the National League board is expected to postpone the new season because many clubs fear it is not viable to start without supporters.
“We have got a week to two weeks left, without some kind of decision on when we can start,” says Parmenter. “We have to start with fans; it is impossible without fans. We have already spent significant amounts of cash on training and preparations for the start of the season, so that money has gone. We are reliant on sponsorship, gate money, tea and bar revenue, things like that to pay the bills, and none of that looks likely going forward.”
When asked what the next week or so looks like, Parmenter explained that it all depends on if the government U-turns on allowing some fans to return.
“If they are saying we’re just going to delay it by a couple of weeks, that’s a different answer to ‘We don’t know’,” he says. “If they say we’re going to start in January: a) there is not enough time to play the 40-odd games and b) by then it will be too late. The most likely scenario is we will have to close the doors.”
In the next 48 hours, the chairman plans to meet squad members and staff to explain how bleak the situation really is. Last month he made the entire squad available on free transfers to cut costs, after claiming the players refused a 20% wage reduction. “I’m going to revisit that,” he says.
The majority of Dover’s players, most of them that earn £600-£900 per week, were taken off furlough at the end of August to train before the proposed start date of October the 3rd, while just a few player contracts will not kick in unless a new season begins. “For the existing players it will be: ‘Sorry, for the moment, we cannot pay you,’” says Parmenter. “And that will have serious implications because football contracts are not like employment contracts – you cannot make people redundant from a football contract.”
Non league clubs can’t begin to contemplate coronavirus testing given the cost. Season-ticket sales account for more than 60% of the club’s current cash reserves – around £100,000 – but Parmenter will not lean on those funds.
“The biggest problem is we cannot spend our season-ticket receipts because we don’t know if and when the season is going to start. We have made it clear to supporters that have bought season tickets that we would ring-fence that money and if the season doesn’t start we will refund that money to season-ticket holders because it’s the right thing to do.
“It has been a huge investment – it’s a labour of love but it looks like it is all going to go,” he says. “Anybody that is as deeply involved as we are, it is part of your life. We’ve always managed it prudently but this is a situation that could destroy everything. We are in big trouble.”