STUART WEBBER insists football must press the reset button to help lower league clubs survive and keep their dreams of a fairytale alive.

Webber is now sporting director at Premier League strugglers Norwich City having started out as Wrexham’s head of youth nearly 20 years ago.

And he recalls Bournemouth’s memorable rise through the pyramid vividly with James Hayter scoring a 140-second hat-trick to sink the Reds back in 2004.

Talking to BBC Five Live, Webber reflected on the current state of the professional game, insisting that lower league clubs, including the Reds, must have their dreams protected.

He said: “What’s probably happening right under our noses - and I don’t mean in the Premier League, but probably the Football League - is it’s coming home to roost really that certain clubs and organisations have been run incredibly badly.

“As soon as the tap’s turned off in terms of income they get in trouble really, really quickly.

“In terms of Premier League clubs, I’d be gobsmacked if that affects any of us to that extreme, we are incredibly fortunate that the level of TV revenue we get way exceeds anything we’d get through supporters.

“For us not having the supporters in is a big hit financially, but nowhere near as big as any large TV rebate. The biggest hit with us not having supporters in is that football without fans is...well, what’s the point?

“In terms of the business side, I think for the lower leagues, I can’t imagine what it must be like being a League One or League Two club, preparing to potentially play football next season without fans.

“Some of the owners and chief executives at these levels are almost saying ‘what’s the point in starting?’

“Football as a whole has to protect these lower leagues, because it makes our country unique. It is unique that we’ve got four professional leagues, and let’s be honest the National League is 90 per cent professional as well.

“It’s something we should be proud of. Sometimes you hear people saying we’ve got too many - and maybe we have - but we should be proud of that.

“It’s a proud day when we have FA Cup third round day and a smaller club can beat a bigger club because they are also professional and can have a right good go.

“It’s also a great place for young coaches, staff and players to develop to try and get picked up by Premier League clubs, so we have to protect it and we also have to talk about it.

“I don’t think it’s been touched on anywhere near enough during this pandemic about what losing a football club to a community means. We only have to look at what happened to Bury and that was before COVID-19 ever existed.

“What an absolute disaster it would be for some of these communities to lose their football club, because we all love the game and we know that football is the community.

“Even people who aren’t massive football fans relate to their club, it gives people born in that area a sense of maybe one day playing for their local team and have that dream. It’s going to be frightening if we lose some clubs during this period.”

Welshman Webber, 46, also hit back at claims that the bottom six clubs in the Premier League were only interested in trying to avoid relegation.

“It’s really difficult, because what happens is, as soon as one of us opens our mouth, publicly or privately within meetings, it’s almost like we are shot down immediately,” he said.

“It’s almost like we can’t offer an opinion and that’s really sad, because every single club has got self-interest, every single business and every single family at this point has self-interest.

“No-one should apologise for that, however, when you are trying to put things forward for the greater health of the game and it almost gets knocked back because it’s assumed that it’s a self-interest point, it’s really sad.

“If you look at the bottom six clubs in the Premier League, you’ve got Aston Villa - massive club, West Ham - massive club, Brighton - extremely well run club, Watford and ourselves - really, really traditional British clubs, and Bournemouth, whose story, let’s be honest, has been a fairytale.

“I remember when I was at Wrexham and James Hayter scored a hat-trick in the old Fourth Division. These a clubs run by good people and I find it really offensive - and I’m pretty sure all of the others do - that you almost can’t open your mouth.

“It’s really hard because as soon as we say anything it’s like ‘well you are going to say that because you’re trying not to get relegated’.

“We have never once said about relegation. What we have said is that if the season is played out and after 38 games we are bottom of the league or in the bottom three then we deserve to be relegated.”