Devonshire believes National League Premier clubs will fight to play on, but season could yet be scrapped

Maidenhead United boss Alan Devonshire remains hopeful the National League Premier campaign can be completed as planned, despite discontent from clubs over the Government’s decision to issue loans rather than grants to see them through the remainder of the campaign.

National League clubs kicked off the season in October thanks to a £10m grant from the National Lottery, which saw them through to December, however, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says they’ll now have to take out long term, low-interest, loans to see them through the next three months.

The National League North and South divisions were suspended on Friday for a period of two weeks, and it’s possible all three divisions could be scrapped as early as this week if clubs refuse to play on without further grant support.

An £11m package of financial aid has been allocated for the National League, however, this will come in the form of loans rather than grants, something that is unpalatable to lots of clubs, Maidenhead included. Yesterday (Wednesday) the Government confirmed that grants would only be made available to clubs in exceptional circumstances, 'if their imminent future was at risk or they could demonstrate loans are unaffordable'.

Despite this Devonshire hopes a way forward can be found in the coming days, and chairman Peter Griffin has said the club would consider a loan if it meant the season was completed.

“I think all clubs want to compete,” said Devonshire. “There are two promotion spots which some of the bigger clubs want badly.

“They’ve spent a lot of money trying to get those spots. A lot of clubs at this level will want the league to continue, but it must be safe for us to carry on.

“At the end of the day, there are people still dying because of this (virus) and the football comes second to that. But, if we’re told to play on, we’ll play on.”

At 64, Devonshire doesn’t want to catch COVID-19, and is doing all he can to keep himself and his players safe from the virus at training and on match-days.

However, there is no mandatory or regular testing for clubs in the National League and, if the league does continue through lockdown, the Maidenhead boss admits it’s won’t be possible to ensure that everyone will avoid catching the virus.

“I try to be as safe as I can,” he said. “I’m 64 and I’m a lot older than many of the managers in the league.

“I don’t want to catch it, so I’m being careful. But the way it’s spreading at the moment, you just don’t know? But I understand that people need a release from lockdown. If it’s safe for us to carry on, then we’re happy to play on.”

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