National League clubs have two funding options available to continue the current season or can indicate to suspend the campaign following meetings with the league on Wednesday.
A letter circulated to the 66 member clubs in advance of the discussions explained the £11 million allocated to support Steps 1 and 2 playing behind closed doors for January to March, via the £300m Winter Survival Package and administered by Sport England, will be by loans, with grants available in exceptional circumstances.
This came as a shock as a number of clubs would not have started the season in October had they been offered loans and it was the National League’s firm understanding the funding would be in the form of grants, if there was no improvement in the country’s situation, but the DCMS say funding was never promised as grants.
The first three months of the season – October, November and December – were funded through the National Lottery’s promotional fund as grants after league chiefs and the FA struck a £10m rescue deal with the government.
The season is due to run until the end of May with play-offs to follow in June.
The National League’s interim general manager Mark Ives, who has taken over following the sudden resignation of chief executive Michael Tattersall last month, held six meetings with clubs today (January 20), which began at 10am and finished at 5.30pm, to update them on the funding situation.
Clubs have been given three options.
– The first is for clubs to individually loan money via a central application which contains assessment criteria with preferential rates, and those rates could include holiday payments and be negotiated.
– The second is for the National League to take on the loan and distribute money to its clubs as grants, with Sport England signing off the distribution model. This would impact the central funding clubs receive in future, but is initially looking like the preferred option.
– The last is for the season to be suspended for an unspecified amount of time. All leagues could be suspended or just one Step, with the Winter Survival Package and furlough scheme able to be used.
Clubs have been asked to return their views via email by Thursday on the club loans, whether the National League should take on the loan and convert it to grants or should a suspension happen.
A National League board meeting has been scheduled for Friday where the views of the clubs will be discussed. It is expected Saturday’s fixtures will go ahead as planned although many clubs are keen for them to be paused.
Update – A statement from The National League Board on 22nd January
“Following the review of the feedback from Clubs in connection to the recent Clubs meeting, a Board meeting this morning decided to halt the participation in the North/South Divisions for a two-week period, effective immediately.”
“As a result, tomorrow’s games are formally postponed.”