Published: 13:00, 22 September 2020
| Updated: 14:06, 22 September 2020
The owner of one of Gillingham’s rivals has warned clubs will fold in League 1 if fans aren’t allowed in this season.
Elite football clubs in England were expecting fans back in October but the government have scrapped those plans amid a second wave of Covid-19 and a tightening of restrictions.
Gillingham have already played their first league game behind closed doors this season in addition to three cup games. It’s meant a loss of vital matchday revenue.
There were hopes that the gates could have been reopened for the home match against Oxford United on October 10 but that’s not going to happen, with supporters left watching from home through live internet feeds.
Peterborough co-owner Jason Neale, responding to Gillingham boss Steve Evans’ call for Premier League funding, tweeted: “Agree with our old manager. Without a bailout we will be lucky to finish the season with 22 teams in League 1. Certainly that at least two go to the wall.”
Macclesfield were wound up last week and Bury went last season. Others are struggling to pay the bills. Southend United are facing a £500,000 tax bill and Gills chairman Paul Scally recently hit out at the HMRC's demands.
Evans said on Saturday: “(Getting fans back is ) massive. We are no different to half of the team in league 1 and League 2, it’s about how long can we survive. We need the crowds.”
Prior to that he commented: “The Premier League need to look at themselves. I still see transfers of £50-£60-£70 million and clubs in League 1 and 2 who are struggling to survive. Maybe some of them forget where their players come from at one point.”
Former Gills boss Andy Hessenthaler, in charge at National League Dover, also says they need help.
He said: "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."
Clubs classed as not elite have been allowed to welcome supporters back, with both the Isthmian League and the Southern Counties East now underway with limited capacities.
It could mean the new National League season being delayed. There were hopes of starting their season at the start of October to coincide with the return of fans. That is now in doubt.
Read more on the decision to delay the return of spectators;