Fourth MP intervenes over Dagenham & Redbridge FC Covid cash

A Dagenham and Redbridge logo mural during the FA Women's Super League match at Chigwell Constructio

Dagenham & Redbridge FC managing director Steve Thompson has asked why grants could be given in October but not now. - Credit: PA

A fourth MP has joined calls for the government to rethink its £11million offer of support to football clubs battling to stay afloat due to Covid.

It follows the offer of loans to National League clubs, including Dagenham & Redbridge FC, instead of grant aid only, to support them after restrictions saw fans barred from matches.

Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge is the latest MP calling on culture secretary Oliver Dowden to think again.

Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and Rainham, Sam Tarry, who represents Ilford South, and Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford, have also intervened on the club's behalf.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston MP, in a letter to National League clubs, said no decisions about loans or grants can be made until clubs "open their books".

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Grants are offered to clubs which demonstrate they would be unable to repay them with decisions made by an independent board, he adds.

margaret hodge letter to oliver dowden

Barking MP, Dame Margaret Hodge, has urged culture secretary Oliver Dowden to rethink the government's support to football clubs. - Credit: Dame Margaret Hodge

Steve Thompson, Dagenham & Redbridge FC managing director, asked why the government felt able to give clubs grants in October, but isn't making the same offer now.

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He called for grants for all 66 National League clubs, adding it would mean the Daggers would not be forced to furlough players, which he estimated would cost the public purse more.

He predicted that, under the scheme, the club could find itself £450,000 in debt by the end of the season.

"That's a lot of money for a small club to repay," Steve said.

He warned without the club, which opened a food bank last summer and is streaming games over the internet, its community work would be in jeopardy.

Dagenham & Redbridge managing director Steve Thompson (pic: Dave Simpson/TGSPHOTO)

Dagenham & Redbridge managing director Steve Thompson (pic: Dave Simpson/TGSPHOTO) - Credit: Dave Simpson/TGSPHOTO

"For a lot of people, their local football club is their lifeline. We want to make sure we're still here," Steve said.

The current offer is from the government's £300m Sport Winter Survival Package (SWSP) pot which offers loans with some grants to clubs and organisations covering all sports.

The scheme rests on the principle money is returned to the public purse where possible in the long-term.

Loans are offered at lower interest rates with repayment periods stretching up to 20 years.

The Board of the National League is mounting a campaign to persuade ministers to think again. An online petition has also launched.

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