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Dover Athletic manager Andy Hessenthaler fears for the future of football

Andy Hessenthaler fears for the future of football after the latest setback in the return to action.

The Dover Athletic manager was speaking after the government paused plans to bring spectators back into stadiums at the start of October.

Dover boss Andy Hessenthaler. Picture: Andy Jones
Dover boss Andy Hessenthaler. Picture: Andy Jones

That means National League Dover are not expected to start their campaign on October 3 at home to Notts County.

And with no revenue from spectators coming into clubs, Hessenthaler fears for clubs throughout the National League - as well as those at the lower end of the Football League.

"I fear for football," stated 55-year-old Hessenthaler, who played for Gillingham, Watford, Barnet and Hull during an illustrious career in the Football League.

"Our chairman has already said clubs are going to go to the wall.

"I don't know how long this is going to go on for. This pandemic is here but the economy can't stop - it won't be able to survive.

"We've got to carry on. We've got to protect the vulnerable and certain people but football has to get up and running otherwise I don't know if there is any light at the end of the tunnel.

"There's been lots of people speaking about the Premier League helping clubs out.

"Everyone goes on about this football family. We're in that football family and we need help.

"The Premier League are on their own and the rest of us have to get on with it.

"With what's happened today it may be that we need to reach out for some help - it's going to be needed, there's lots of clubs in trouble."

The likes of Bury and Macclesfield have already gone to the wall in the past year and Hessenthaler warned that could be just the tip of the iceberg.

"It's very sad," he added. "There are wonderful clubs in the Football League and National League, I've worked at a few of them.

"I look at Wigan who we played at Wembley when I was at Gillingham and the problems they've got.

"It's a worry for football. Let's hope we can come together and get through it and we get back to some sort of normality."

Dover chairman Jim Parmenter. Picture: Tony Flashman (42360209)
Dover chairman Jim Parmenter. Picture: Tony Flashman (42360209)

Dover chairman Jim Parmenter publicly stated the club would struggle to get through this period, where income has fallen to virtually zero.

He's been virtually the only chairman to put his cards on the table - but Hessenthaler believes there must be others in a similar situation.

"Jim has come out and been honest," said Hessenthaler. "He told us how it is as a management team as well and that's taken the pressure off us.

"It seems he is a lone voice but I think there's more clubs out there who are burying their heads in the sand.

"Jim has told everyone how it is for Dover Athletic Football Club and unless other clubs in the National League have got rich benefactors, which I'm sure they all haven't, then it will be affecting other teams."

National League clubs might be regretting their decision to press ahead for play-offs at the end of last season now, and class themselves as elite alongside Premier League big guns.

Hessenthaler responded: "We don't feel elite at all.

"Heads have got to be put together to find a solution. I hope we can start the season on time, it's looking unlikely, but there needs to be a plan.

"I don't know what the answers are. We need help financially as a league and they need to come up with a plan but to me it hasn't looked like they've had a plan to start with.

"I don't know where this leaves us as a club and as a league because we can't play football without supporters coming through the turnstiles. We wouldn't survive, we rely on the gates to pay the wages."

Hessenthaler did reveal, however, that Dover - like many other clubs - have inserted clauses in contracts this year that mean they won't pay players unless fans are watching them play.

"It's all up in the air at the moment. We're trying to get our squad together but if we're not playing then we can't pay the wages.

"There's players that have signed contracts but we've put in there that if the pandemic continues and football doesn't start then they are not going to get paid - other clubs have done the same too.

"We're preparing right and trying to sign players but the chairman might say now that we can't sign any more. You are trying to get on with the job but it's very difficult."

Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent

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