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Dartford Football Club have offered the use of their Princes Park Stadium as a coronavirus test centre

Dartford’s Princes Park Stadium could become a testing centre for coronavirus.

Daily testing for Covid-19 has been increased by the government and a drive-thru site is already up and running nearby at Ebbsfleet International station.

Dartford Football Club's Princes Park stadium could become a Covid-19 test centre Picture: Simon Hildrew
Dartford Football Club's Princes Park stadium could become a Covid-19 test centre Picture: Simon Hildrew

Additional centres could still be required and health officials have visited the Darts after making contact with the club.

Dartford co-chairman Steve Irving and the club’s board are happy to assist.

Mr Irving said: “Representatives from the NHS contacted us, they wanted to look at the facilities for a potential testing base, and they have had a look around. They are very happy with what we have got to offer.

“It is a case of as and when needed, to have an additional testing centre. It could still happen, dependent on whether the government open testing for all.

Princes Park Stadium, Dartford is already being used as a transfer station for ambulance crews Picture: Simon Hildrew
Princes Park Stadium, Dartford is already being used as a transfer station for ambulance crews Picture: Simon Hildrew

“It is the least we can do, to offer up the facilities to use and when we met with them there was talk of when we potentially started playing football again, as they said this could go on for months. It could carry on into a new football season and we would just have to adapt everything and allow testing to carry on.”

The car park at the stadium is already used as a transfer station for the NHS, with staff dropping off their cars before joining crews in waiting ambulances.

A bar area inside the stadium is also being used for training and seminars.

Steve Irving, Dartford Football Club's co-chairman Picture: Andy Payton
Steve Irving, Dartford Football Club's co-chairman Picture: Andy Payton

“There is nothing else going on in the ground, nobody else is working there, we are completely shut down,” said the co-chairman.

The Department of Health and Social Care are running test centres in the UK and they have been approached for comment.

Dartford could find out today (Tuesday) if they are to see their National League season completed. Sitting in sixth, they could be involved in a play-off campaign when football finally resumes, but it’s unlikely they would be staging any of those games at home because of the way the fixtures are planned.

The National League board met on Friday to discuss how to end the season, with regards to placings, promotion and relegation, and play-offs. They are meeting again today.

Mr Irving released a statement at the weekend assuring fans of the club’s relatively sound footing, amid the crisis. Their players and non-playing staff have been furloughed, using the government’s job retention scheme but the club have topped wages up to ensure all are getting 100% of what they expected.

Players are contracted “until the season ends” and all have been paid up to the end of April. Further payments will be made to players should they be needed for a play-off campaign, but much depends on what is decided by the National League.

Mr Irving, however, thinks it shouldn’t be them making the decision.

He said: “It is a tough decision, they don’t seem to know which way to go, but I think the decision should be taken out of their hands, at all levels of football, by the government.

“The French government just said there would be no football now until September and that forces the hand of the league to then scrap it. I think that is what they should do in this country.”

Should the National League decide to run a play-off competition, the Darts co-chairman feels there needs to be a deadline.

He said: “We have suggested a date in the future that isn’t too far away and if it can’t be completed by then we will have to call the league to a halt and sadly that would mean no promotion or relegation.

“I think the deadline has to be set for the end of June, or July at the very latest, then you could possibly start a new season at the beginning of September, with August a pre-season warm-up period."

The Dartford FC Supporters' Association, meanwhile, have a gofundme account set up to raise money for the club. They are hoping to raise £2,000.

Gary Clark, who is organising the fundraiser, said: “We are currently funding the ongoing running costs of a minibus to be used for transporting the academy sides and youth teams to matches, as well as many maintenance projects around Princes Park Stadium, allowing the club to focus on the playing side. Any excess raised will be used on future projects around Dartford FC.”


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