THE NATIONAL LEAGUE season will begin as planned this weekend after the Government confirmed it will provide sufficient funding to enable clubs to survive to the end of the campaign.

Clubs in the National League, including Hartlepool United, will kick off their league programme as planned on Saturday, while teams in National League North, including Darlington, Spennymoor Town, York City and Blyth Spartans, will play in the second preliminary round of the FA Cup on Saturday before tackling their first league matches next week.

The future of the National League’s three divisions – the National League itself as well as National League North and National League South – had been in serious doubt after plans to allow spectators to attend matches at that level were shelved last week.

Without Government support, it was feared that the vast majority of the club’s 67 clubs would have been unable to survive, with Darlington chief executive David Johnston confirmed earlier this week that he did not believe it would be possible for Quakers to function on a behind-closed-doors basis.

National League officials have spent most of the week discussing a rescue package with Government officials from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and while the final amounts that will be paid and how the money will reach clubs is still to be finalised, all parties are satisfied that enough has been agreed for matches to start as planned this weekend. The league is understood to have requested between £2-3m a month to ensure that all of its clubs remain viable.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “We’re asking the Premier League to support EFL clubs, the higher end of the football pyramid.

“But yesterday, we provided the National League with assurance that financial support from the Government will be forthcoming so they can start this season this Saturday.

“We have asked for detailed financial returns from all major spectator sports to see what support they need.

“We expect those returns by the end of today, and any club in immediate financial distress should alert their sports’ governing body.”