The main problem with the web of rules and dictations, however, is all the loopholes. Jeff Hutton, the general manager of Bromley, who is doomed to play without fans, said his club is focused on how to curb the financial damage of playing in an empty stadium. “It costs us to start the game, manage a live stream and pay the players,” he said. The UK government has promised grants to help clubs like Bromley survive – several Premier League powerhouses recently put their own plan in place – but the money has yet to appear.
At the same time and in the same place, Cray experiences a sudden boom in visitors. “We’re the highest level you can see right now,” Wright said. “On a day like Sunday when there is no Premier League on TV, we hope we can get a pretty big draw.
“Given the situation, it seems strange to say that, but it’s helpful for us as a club.”
The Altrincham men’s team – in the same league and therefore in the same boat as Bromley – also suffers from selling a live stream of games to around 750 fans instead of hosting several thousand people in their stadium. “But our women’s team is allowed a lot,” said Bill Waterson, co-chair of the club, pointing out another absurdity in the rules. “And also the Manchester United women’s development team that also plays here. It wasn’t thought through. “
There are similar stories across the country. Bishop’s Stortford FC shares a stadium with Enfield: the former can have 600 fans at its games, the latter only a little more than half. The same goes for Radcliffe and Bury AFC, teams that play in the same location north of Manchester but at different levels.
And at a time when millions of fans can’t see their clubs play in person – but have been urged to go to the movies and maybe buy a ticket to the Royal Albert Hall – there are plenty of teams on the same wave driving like cray.
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