Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has been asked to launch an investigation into the distribution of money to National League clubs from the £10 million Lottery rescue package, according to The Times.
The rescue package, announced by Dowden in November last year, was offered to clubs in the National League who had suffered financial losses caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and it was understood that it would be distributed according to a clubs' lost gate receipts.
However, the National League board opted to distribute it via their own formula based on a flat rate, which has resulted in some clubs receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds less than what they were initially expecting. After criticisms were heard, the National League commissioned former FA chairman David Bernstein to review the distribution independently, with his findings thought to agree with some of the criticisms raised but have not been shared with the clubs.
A letter has since been written by Duncan Hart, a London FA council member and member of the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' Trust, addressed to Dowden, asking him to ensure that the next round of funding, thought to be worth £11 million, is distributed in a way that sees clubs receive a fair cut of the package and moved towards the gate receipt formula.
The letter refers to examples, including Notts County, who received £287,000 less than they would have received if the National League opted to use the distribution model based on losses of gate receipts, whilst Boreham Wood were "overcompensated" by £170,000.
Bernstein has sent an open letter to Brian Barwick, chairman of the National League, to express his concerns around the failure to share the report from himself with the clubs who have been directly affected by this distribution formula.
Speaking to The Times, Bernstein said: “We have had a very poor response to our report from the National League and it has not been circulated to the clubs, and nor has there been any sign of a change of governance. The model they came up with to distribute the money appeared extremely arbitrary.
“I would hope the government will listen to this. The funding and distribution for the January to March money
really needs to be dealt with more independently. When it comes to dealing with public money it needs to be allocated properly and with visibility.”
In the top division of the National League, clubs were allocated either £95,000 or £84,000, compared to the £36,000 or £30,000 in the two regional divisions (National League North and National League South).
This meant that National League North side York City, with an average attendance of 2,700, only received £108,000 for October to December, instead of £297,000 if allocated on ticket revenue, whereas Boreham Wood, with an average attendance of 724 in the National League, received £252,000, instead of £79,000.
Hart's letter points to five of the nine National League board members were from clubs who benefitted more from the package than they would have done in the expected gate receipts models, although there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing from clubs.
Author: Jake Wilkin