‘It is worrying and it is very scary’ - Linnets owner on government’s new measures

King's Lynn Town owner Stephen Cleeve Picture: Ian Burt

King's Lynn Town owner Stephen Cleeve Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

Stephen Cleeve has vowed to fight his way through the crisis facing non-league football clubs as King’s Lynn Town’s hopes of starting their historic first season in the National League suffered a major blow on Tuesday.

The government’s latest measures to try and halt the increasing spread of the coronavirus pandemic includes a ban on spectators attending games – a move that the National League hierarchy, which is due to meet on Thursday, has said would mean the season would not start as planned on October 3.

Matchday income is vital for clubs at Lynn’s level – last season the average gate at The Walks was more than 1,400 – and goes a long way to paying a weekly budget that is now into five figures.

If the season does go ahead, Cleeve has to find alternative income streams.

“I don’t know the answer as to how we cope without fans,” admitted the Linnets owner. “There are two possibilities – how many tickets can we sell to stream games live and would it be enough to cover the wages?

“If not, would the players take less money during this period?

“If we could cover the wages from the streaming from our home games I could likely cover the other expenses, the coach travel, utility expenses and stuff like that, myself. I do think without the stream money we’re finished.”

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The TV streaming numbers would need to be significant given the extra expense that has come with promotion to the National League, with more players coming in as well as vital backroom staff to assist manager Ian Culverhouse.

It is understood that teams in the National League North and South are reluctant to start the season - the cost would be prohibitive at a time when a number of clubs are already close to going under.

The National League is a different matter, but with a whole host of former League clubs on their fixture list this season, Lynn, as a part-time team, are one of the rarities.

“As an owner, it is really terrifying, because I have put a lot of work into it,” added Cleeve. “It is worrying and it is very scary to see how we come out the other side of it.

“It is depressing, but I am a fighter and I will fight to find a solution as best I can.”