National League ask government for details of key meeting

Lynn players celebrate Adam Marriott's late equaliser. Picture: Ian Burt

King's Lynn Town players celebrate Adam Marriott's late equaliser against Yeovil on the opening day of the season - Credit: Ian Burt

The National League has asked for the minutes of a key meeting called by government last November where it claims assurances were given that it would not have to pay back coronavirus crisis funding. 

The 66 clubs in the National League - including King's Lynn Town - and the North and South divisions below it are in the process of voting on whether or not to cut the season short, after learning that £11m due to be offered as part of the government's Sports Winter Survival Package would be in the form of loans rather than grants. 

It is understood each of the three leagues will take separate votes over whether to play on. 

In correspondence seen by the PA news agency, the National League claims it was told at a meeting called by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on November 17 that "the second tranche of monies for January/February/March 2021 would be on the same principles as the initial tranche ie grants". 

National League clubs were supported through the period between October and December of last year by a government-brokered commercial deal with the National Lottery which did not involve any repayment, but they are now very concerned about their ability to make ends meet. 

Scott Priestnall, chairman and owner of National League side Yeovil, said: "We have consistently asked for minutes of that meeting and it's strange that DCMS, on such a high-profile meeting where £10m was being handed over effectively, that there aren't minutes to that meeting. We have asked consistently for these minutes and they haven't provided them." 

The National League says it has pointed out to DCMS that the cost of curtailment and placing staff on furlough at 66 clubs would be a bigger hit to the taxpayer - £14m - than to pay £11m in grants. 

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Priestnall, who revealed his club need £750,000 in order to complete the season, says he will vote to continue the season but expects it to be a close ballot, even in the highest division. 

"There sits another issue - if there is a small majority that want to continue the league - let's say 65pc - what happens to the 35pc who said they didn't want to play?" Priestnall said.