'How can anyone make plans to take a club forward and be kept in the dark for so many weeks?' - Linnets owner
- Credit: Ian Burt
The question of funding National League clubs is back on the agenda, although it seems this time that the government has given the money to Sport England to distribute rather than to the FA.
Noises have been made that not all the money that is on offer will be in the form of grants - much of it may be loans.
I cannot understand why Sport England have been given the funds as I am told that they will not deal directly with any of the leagues which will benefit from the monies and instead will only deal with the FA - so the question one must ask is why not just give the money directly to the FA and let them get on with it?
It is also wholly unfair that the money should be made up of grants and loans; we were assured when we kicked off the league that money would be available for clubs to compensate us for lost income. It was never mentioned that this would be in the form of loans which will saddle us with debt that cannot be serviced by most clubs.
Sport England and the Government made these announcements on November 19, but still have not told us how the money will be distributed. How can anyone make plans to take a club forward and be kept in the dark for so many weeks?
The government may well have given the money to Sport England as there were around 11 clubs who publicly made a lot of noise about the previous distribution and felt they should have more money than they received. The result of their anger concluded with an independent review board, headed by ex-FA supremo David Bernstein. One of the main protagonists were Maidstone United FC, whose MP, Helen Grant, already sits on another committee with David Bernstein to look at ways that the game can be reformed.
It was interesting to note that six clubs were called to give evidence - four who were unhappy with the distribution (out of 11 complainants) and two that were content (out of the remaining 55 clubs).
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I would have hoped that the two clubs chosen to speak, who were in favour of the adopted model, would have been clubs that were in the middle of the attendance bed and not those that represented the extremes.
Sadly, they chose the worst-supported club in the National League, Boreham Wood (who everyone agrees were over renumerated), and Oxford City, who had the second worst average attendance in the National League South last season. It hardly gives a fair reflection on how most clubs are faring.
The committee wanted to give more money to the National League North and South clubs and take away money from at least 10 clubs, including King’s Lynn Town. They took an average of the last two seasons’ attendances, but made no allowances, as I understand it, for the fact that we were in two different lower leagues for those seasons in question, which meant had the committee got their way we would have received only £12,000 in December to balance what they saw was an overpayment in the previous two months.
Chesterfield were upset and cried poverty, but that has not stopped them signing players like Chester’s left-back Joel Taylor. I understand they paid £25,000, with a £5,000 bonus if they stay up and a further £10,000 if they get promoted in the next two seasons. So, clearly, they are not as broke as they would have you believe. Chesterfield were one of the club’s that the review committee invited in to understand their financial problems. They also listened to Dulwich Hamlet, who give their streaming away for free, Telford and Hereford.
Currently, National League clubs take 70pc of all league distributed income and the NLN and the NLS get 30pc (each season NL clubs get £58,333 and NLN and NLS clubs are awarded £13,636). However, the lottery fund grant money was distributed on a 60/40, basis which I think is fair given the pandemic that we find ourselves in the midst of.
The Bernstein committee wanted this to be moved to a 55/45 split - this could easily culminate in a power struggle from all sides, but as the NL clubs have far more voting power than those in the NLN and NLS there would be only one winner.
I am all for pragmatism. We need to ensure that all clubs are here for the start of next season and whilst I understand you cannot please everyone all the time, we need to look forward as a group and work as one, ensuring that all clubs are given a reasonable grant so that they can pay their players from now until fans are let back in.
Our FA Cup game against Portsmouth in a normal environment would have been a great financial fillip for the club. Sadly, the home club lost £5,967.42 putting the game on and we of course rightly need to pay half of this, as our share of the losses. So imagine my surprise when I heard that Hornchurch were going to give the streaming away for our FA Trophy game next week and ask for donations in return to their supporters’ club.
This is clearly not fair as we would get an invoice for the loss and they would get to keep all the streaming income in the form of donations. We have offered our services to stream the game and a 50pc revenue split which seems a far more equitable way of doing things.