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Dartford manager Steve King says some fans being allowed into grounds gives teams a sporting and financial advantage in National League South

Dartford have been dealt a double blow, according to manager Steve King.

Tier 3 Darts still have to play their home matches behind closed doors under the new government guidelines but rival teams including Dorking Wanderers, Havant and Welling – less than seven miles down the road – can now let spectators into their ground.

Jack Jebb on the ball for Dartford against Hungerford. Picture: Phillip Cannings (43397210)
Jack Jebb on the ball for Dartford against Hungerford. Picture: Phillip Cannings (43397210)

It also means that those clubs are earning gate revenue at the same time that the National Lottery-backed grant via the National League is being paid to them at a rate of at least £30,000 a month to compensate for the lack of fans.

“It’s not fair,” stated King. “Sixteen teams in our league can have fans so it’s giving an advantage to our opponents – that’s a fact.

“There’s nothing to gain home or away without fans in grounds but 1,000 supporters in a ground will lift the home team.

“It’s not an even playing field, that’s a fact. It makes it tougher for us. I don’t see it as even if we can’t have fans in our ground.

“We’ve got to follow the government guidelines but it’s wrong. Some of Kent should have been placed in tier 2 but it’s all in tier 3. I’m still puzzled by it.”

Not only do Dartford miss out on potential home crowds approaching 2,000 to help roar them on to vital league points, there is also the financial loss with no gate income.

“We would be getting 1,500 to 2,000 if the fans were allowed in at home, given where we are in the league,” added King.

“That would be an advantage for us if we could get that but we can’t, and we can’t take fans away either.

“All of the clubs got at least £30,000 a month so the teams that are going to have fans, they are going to get that money plus the fans.

“What about the ones who can’t have fans in? Are clubs going to give some of their money back to compensate everyone else?

“It’s another good question that should be asked.

“Someone could get 1,000 fans at £10 each and that’s an extra £10,000 in revenue.

“So we’re losing double – no fans to drive the team on and no money from the fans on the gate.”

Dartford celebrate their first goal at Hungerford last weekend. Picture: Phillip Cannings (43397212)
Dartford celebrate their first goal at Hungerford last weekend. Picture: Phillip Cannings (43397212)

King was thrilled with his team after last weekend’s 2-1 win at Hungerford, which saw the Darts trail before two second-half goals from Jacob Berkeley-Ageypong.

The Dartford boss felt it was a significant victory to defeat one of the teams around them in the table.

“Obviously it was second against third and it’s always important in those games if you can steal a march on the other team,” said King.

“If they’d beaten us they would have gone above us but now the gap is six points. It’s always important not to lose and with the season they are having I would have been happy with a point.

“But we went one better than that with an unbelievable goal. Jacob took it from the right wing and got his shot away from a curious angle, right into the corner.

“We definitely deserved to win the game. They were a lot sharper than us in the first half but we stood up to it. Their penalty wasn’t a penalty for me, I thought it was harsh.”

Dartford travel to Eastbourne this weekend, the East Sussex side are in the play-off places but have won just once in the last five games.

They’ve also only lost once in that time and King is well aware of the threat they pose.

“I’ve seen them live and watched a couple of videos as well,” said King. “They are doing really well, they’ve got a real togetherness as a group.

“Any team that can run the likes of St Albans, Ebbsfleet and Hampton close are going to be a good side.”

Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent

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