Could all of Lynn's hard work go to waste because of an oversight?
- Credit: Ian Burt
King’s Lynn Town host Wrexham today – in the background there is confusion over whether the season will even finish. CHRIS LAKEY looks at the comedy of errors plaguing the teams of the National League
The Walks opens its doors to a lucky few on Saturday afternoon – could it be for the last time this season?
While Lynn boss Ian Culverhouse spends many a twilight hour plotting Lynn’s survival among the big fish of the National League, he does so knowing that at any moment, his work could be rendered a waste of time.
Why? Well, put in very, very simple terms, someone forgot to cross the Ts and dot the Is when it was decided to start this season, despite the fact that supporters would not be allowed in and income would be slashed to ribbons.
Remember when the National League secured agreement for funding, by way of grants, from the National Lottery - £10m, which would set the ball rolling, literally, on the first three months of the season? Then they’d get their heads together before Christmas to see the lie of the land regarding the pandemic, and fans, and football … and if needs be, more funding would be made available.
What someone forgot was to get the form of the funding rubber-stamped, confirmed absolutely and without a shadow of a doubt.
The first lot came in the way of grants. And now the goalposts have, if you listen to the National League, been moved.
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The government say the January-March money will be loans. Not grants. Loans which have to be repaid. Or, as one football club official put it, bankruptcy postponed.
The clubs squealed, and told the DCMS to look at their notebooks again. The suits did – and came back and said “we never said it would be grants again...”
You may remember their statement: "It is untrue to suggest funding to the National League was ever promised as all grants and they have been unable to substantiate this claim.
"In October we brokered a unique deal with the National Lottery to provide a £10 million cash injection to keep Step 1 and 2 clubs afloat, and recently announced another £11 million in low interest loans to support them in line with support offered to other sports.
"If any individual Step 1 and 2 National League club can demonstrate it is in critical need of support and would be unable to repay a loan, grant applications will be assessed on a case by case basis. This will of course be through the same rigorous process that we apply to other sports."
That’s where the Is and Ts weren’t sorted.
It is most bizarre that we should be talking about millions of pounds and no one thought to actually get it down in plain English.
The league say that if they knew the current money would be in loan form they would never have agreed to start the season. Fair comment – who in their right mind would? But this is a league that perhaps didn’t check the small print, so who knows?
In the National League, anything can happen.
Remember their tardiness when it came to ending the season back in March when the pandemic first really started to bite? The National League was behind everyone else in calling a halt. Then, when it came to deciding the outcome of the season, it dragged on and on and on. It was quite ludicrous, as is the current situation.
Even when the first National Lottery money came in and had to be distributed, the National League appears to have made a ricket of that: it was supposed to be based on lost expected gate receipts, but some clubs made a very tidy profit while others lost thousands.
Who could have guessed what Lynn’s expected average home gate would be, given that last season it was 1,417 – a 99pc increase on the previous season (both of which were promotion seasons).
Not an easy task, perhaps, to predict all the numbers, but certainly not impossible.
Incidentally, the league did decide to suspend its regional North and South divisions for a fortnight – and it appears that York City revealed that games would resume as planned, on February 6, rather than the league actually confirming it themselves. Got to be quicker to the ball than that...
It is all ridiculous background noise to what the manager, owner and players of King’s Lynn Town are trying to achieve.
The next step is the visit of Wrexham – ironic that as a bizarre, almost laughable script is being played out, a club in the throes of being taken over by a couple of Hollywood actors should be coming to town.
Hopefully there will be a happy ending and a sequel.