Stephen Cleeve: Why vote of no confidence will fail

King's Lynn Town boss Ian Culverhouse - before Yeovil

BT cameras at The Walks for the opening game of the season, against Yeovil - Credit: Ian Burt

The National League is never far away from controversy and this past week was no exception to the rule.

Maidstone and Dorking filed a no-confidence motion against the National League board and the chairman. They believe that their governance over the season has been questionable and they have poorly managed the crisis caused by Covid.

I believe that the vote is doomed to fail. Voting is slightly complex within the National League, with National League North (NLN) clubs having four votes, National League South (NLS) clubs having four votes and National League clubs having one vote each.  

The National League clubs are one club short this season with the demise of Macclesfield, so there are 23 votes in the National League and eight votes from the North and the South, giving a total of 31 votes.

In simple terms, Dover have already voted, which means seven more votes are needed to carry the no-confidence motion, but I would personally be surprised if anyone else votes for it. So, mathematically, I cannot see it happening.  

I am all for self-examination and looking at ourselves and there is plenty that the board can improve on. I am sure they would be the first to admit this. But is a vote of no-confidence really the best answer?

Clearly the previous CEO, Michael Tattersall, should have had a signed agreement from the DCMS before the season started, agreeing to further grants if Covid was still on the rampage in December. This was a major failing, but Mr Tattersall resigned some months ago.  

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Communication must be improved. It is clearly wrong for club executives to read about board decisions on social media before the board has informed them.  

King's Lynn Town v Yeovil was live on BT Sport

Lights, camera, action - but how valuable is BT's deal to clubs? - Credit: Ian Burt

The BT Sport broadcasting deal in my opinion is excellent in terms of coverage, but awful in terms of remuneration.  King’s Lynn Town’s game at Halifax on April 17 has been switched to a 12.30pm kick-off, which necessitates the team staying in a hotel on the Friday night. The coach company will no doubt increase their hire charges for an overnight stay.  

Our broadcast fee of £2,000 may just cover the extra costs. The home club will lose their right to stream the game and their fee of £6,000 will not replace their lost streaming revenue.  

The Women’s Premier League will receive an estimated £8m starting from next season. They’re worth every penny of it. On the other hand, the National League’s TV deal will rise to an estimated £1m next season. It begs the question: are audiences for the WPL eight times higher than for the NL?  

Many clubs have been punished financially for not fulfilling fixtures and this seems to have been the catalyst to unite many of the NLN and NLS teams. While I have every sympathy for any team that is punished and personally feel that any fine should have been suspended, the league are in a tricky situation because the fines were given out by an independent committee and not by the board themselves.  

Where the board are culpable is to charge the clubs in the first place; surely with hindsight this was a huge own goal. All the clubs have the right to appeal to a second independent committee at the FA and here I hope that justice will prevail for all the clubs involved.  

King’s Lynn Town will be in debt now for many years simply because we were forced to participate this season. We will not be alone. Clearly, I hope that lessons have been learnt and we will never be asked to play football again without fans being allowed into stadiums. The board should be discussing now what happens next season if fan numbers are restricted and not leaving it until the last minute. I understand that even some clubs in the Championship are terrified of the season starting without fans. Many the cupboards are well and truly bare.

Having said all of the above, I do believe that the board have done their best, in the vast majority of cases I do not think self-interest prevails. They are, in the main, unpaid and spend a lot of time juggling many different views and opinions.  Would a new board do anything that differently? Once the initial mistake was made to kick off, they have been fire-fighting all season. There was nothing that anyone could do about it. 

The bigger problem that the National League North and South clubs could have is that commercially the sponsors are only interested in the National League. Each North and South club is given around £19,000 per season. I understand from back channels that several National League clubs are unhappy with how the Northern and Southern leagues are behaving. It may not take too much for National League clubs to want to split away from the other two leagues.   

Financially it may give each National League club an extra £34,800. While it would need FA Alliance Committee approval, this could be something that could get the required votes and would leave the North and the South out on their own.  The National League North and South may well want to control their own destinies. They might feel that they could make a far better fist of it alone. But it could be a huge gamble. The old adage “be careful what you pray for” may come back to haunt them.

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