Chairman’s corner: owners must ensure money is divided up on a fair basis

King's Lynn Town owner Stephen Cleeve chatting to Canaries legend Grant Holt - at The Walks in his c

King's Lynn Town owner Stephen Cleeve chatting to Canaries legend Grant Holt - at The Walks in his capacity as a BT presenter on the Linnets' opening game of the season - and pundit Jeff Brazie Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

Non league football is, like many other areas, counting the financial cost of Covid - Linnets owner Stephen Cleeve is keen to see a fair distribution of funds that are being made available

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish Picture: PA

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish Picture: PA - Credit: PA

A football club chairman’s life is never a dull one.

Off the field we have been dealing with issues around government aid, Covid and streaming. The government seems to want the Premier League to sort out the Football League in terms of finance and some Premier League chairmen are unhappy with that directive. Steve Parish, the Crystal Palace chairman, has been particularly vocal in that department and his arguments have been well received by some.

“Deliveroo aren’t bailing out your local café,” is one of Parish’s points and whilst I can see his argument I have more time for his assertion that many Championship clubs have richer owners than those owning clubs in the Premier League – as an example Denise Coates, whose family owns Stoke City, earned £323 million last year and is the highest paid chief executive of a British company. You can understand why Palace don’t want to subsidise Stoke City!

Whilst of course these arguments are light years away from the day to day life of King’s Lynn Town, we are having similar battles at the real-life end of the footballing pyramid. The government stepped in to agree to cover some of the running costs of all National League clubs, as we are squeezed from both ends, having limited TV revenues and no fans allowed into stadiums. The amount agreed was around £3 million a month, but the next issue was how to distribute it.

The FA took on that issue, which is probably the fairest solution; had it been left with the National League board there are several clubs with board representation and too many personal interests at stake. I wrote to the FA explaining that there should be decent base amount which everyone should have and after that maybe an extra amount to those with the biggest average crowds.

To do anything else would be blatantly unfair – the bigger clubs (some of which stated at the start of the season that they could afford to play without fans and have no additional income at all) sensed blood and said that they should have the majority of the pie and it should be based strictly on attendances. That may work for a team like Aldershot, who have a five-year track record of playing in the same division, but in our case, crowds averaged out over two years would be horrendous.

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We were in the Southern Central League two years ago and the National League North last season, which was cut short, denying us some big gates as fans would hopefully have had the chance to witness our promotion in the normal manner. Our gates averaged around 700 two years ago and about 1,450 last season, so if the league continued this trend and doubled our expected gate to 2,900 for this season, whilst I would have had no complaints I am sure many other clubs would. Some clubs were moving back to their hometowns – as in Gloucester’s case – which would surely have seen a rise in crowds and others that were relegated would probably have seen crowds move in a negative direction.

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and this would have been one of those situations – I made the point to anyone that would listen that for the league to work, all teams in it needed to finish; there was no point in giving all the money to the big guys and having half the league go bust in the process. The big leveller, of course, would be streaming; unlike the Football League, the home club keeps all the revenue, which I believe is correct as during a normal football season the home clubs keeps its home league revenue.

The streaming service sold by the Football League is called iFollow and the home club keeps its revenue and the first 500 of the streams sold by the away club, with the remainder being kept by the away team – this has the effect in League Two of ensuring that Bolton Wanderers made more money out of their away game at Colchester than the home club did – the U’s took less than £8,000 and the Trotters made £14,600.

In our league, Notts County are selling over 2,000 streams a game and Wrexham sold over 2,700 for their home season opener, whilst we sold 236 for our midweek bruising against Boreham Wood. Those 2,000 streams are worth around £20,000 and that’s a fair leveller for the larger clubs.

I understand that the FA, after much deliberation, have come up with a flat base formula for all three National Leagues with around a 15pc increase for those with bigger fan bases. This seems very fair to me and will allow the season to complete. The money will come from the National Lottery’s Promotion Fund, no doubt in exchange for clubs helping to promote the Lottery. All of the theory is excellent. Now all that has to happen is for the money to be paid to the clubs.

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