A certain National League South club have been left in a ‘very worrying’ situation as they enter yet another tough period within a year.
Havant & Waterlooville, along with the 65 other clubs in the fifth and sixth tiers of English football, have no idea as to how much financial aid they are set to receive this month – or even when they are to get it.
They were given £30,000 a month of National Lottery money in October, November and December, but now Sport England are overseeing the aid as part of the Government’s Sport Winter Survival Package announced in mid-November according to The News.
Clubs don’t know how much they are to receive, but also haven’t a clue as to whether aid will be in the form of grants or loans.
— Portsmouth Sport (@portsmouthsport) January 7, 2021
Hawks boss Paul Doswell spoke with The News this week, saying that it is likely clubs at their level will refuse to play matches if only loans were offered.
The director, Trevor Brock, revealed that the situation is becoming ‘very worrying: ‘We normally pay the players in the third week of the month and we have no idea what money we’re going to receive.
‘I would say there’s a 99.9 per cent chance we would turn down a loan.
‘There’s not many clubs at our level that could survive without any sort of external funding.
‘The Westleigh pub is shut and a lot of businesses that help support the club are also currently closed down.’
It was only in October that the 2020/21 National League season got underway, and by this point there was an expectation of fans being able to return to stadiums even at a limited capacity.
Clubs agreed to start playing on the basis they would get at least six months’ worth of Government funding.
‘There was also an inference it would go on after that,’ said Brock.
Havant & Waterlooville’s league campaign should go on until Saturday the 29th of May – with the playoffs extending the season into mid-June.
In a letter from general manager Mark Ives, he admitted the league would be pressing for the cash in grant form.
‘We have received confirmation previously that we will have a further £11m to distribute from DCMS,’ he wrote. ‘However, whilst we are satisfied we will have this level of funding, we have not been advised as of yet the conditions attached to that funding.
‘There have been some suggestions circulated that the £11m will be given on a loan basis as opposed to the original funding being grant/donation/sponsorship .
The league want to ensure the sustainability of many clubs and want this funding issued on the basis of grants and not loans, otherwise it may cause further financial pressures on clubs at a time when the financial burden is at its highest.
‘The League … will be doing all we can, in seeking the support of the Football Association to secure the funding as grants if possible.
‘Additionally, we are considering the most ideal distribution model that considers the lessons learnt over the previous three months and ensures the right level of support to those clubs, no matter in which division they play.’
Under the previous model, Chesterfield, Hartlepool, Notts County, Stockport, Torquay, Wrexham and Yeovil received n amount of £95,000 a month from October-December inclusive (total £1.995m).
The remaining 16 top flight clubs received £84,000 per month (total £4.032m).
In total, the 23 top flight clubs banked £6.027m with an average of around £260,000 per club.
The 43 clubs in the North and South divisions, meanwhile, shared £3.96m between them.
Chester, Dulwich Hamlet, Hereford, Maidstone and York got £36,000 a month (total £540,000) whilst the other 38, including Havant, received £30,000 (total £3.42m).
Overall, the 43 North and South clubs received an average of £92,000 – £168,000 per club less than their National League cousins.
The model, which was based on last season’s average attendances – left clubs angry with some clubs with Chester, Chesterfield, Dulwich, AFC Fylde, Hereford, Kidderminster, Maidstone, Notts County, AFC Telford, Wrexham and Yeovil going public with their dismay.
For their part, Havant receive £90,000 but considered it unfair that clubs with far fewer supporters – such as Hungerford – got the same amount.
Following on from the complaints, the National League set up an Independent Review Panel with an aim of reviewing of how it’s distributed and suggesting possible changes to future financial aid.
IRP head David Bernstein, a former FA chairman, publicly criticised the National League prior to Christmas for not sharing his panel’s report with the clubs or acting upon the recommendations suggested.
The National League hit back, saying the panel recommended increased funding to 24 clubs in December with 30 clubs receiving less than they had done in the previous two months.
In 10 cases, it would have seen distribution going from an expected £84,000 down to £12,000. ‘This variation, at such a late stage, was simply not practical or legally possible,’ said Ives in his letter to clubs.