Havant & Waterlooville admit uncertainty over next financial aid package is ‘very worrying’

Havant & Waterlooville will almost certainly turn down any loans they are offered as part of the next round of National League funding.

Thursday, 7th January 2021, 3:55 pm
Hawks' Danny Kedwell takes on Dulwich Hamlet's Sanchez Ming last November. While Hawks banked £90,000 in National Lottery cash between October and December, Dulwich were handed £108,000 for the same period. Picture by Dave Haines.

Along with the other 65 clubs in the fifth and sixth tiers of English football, they have no idea how much financial aid they will receive this month – or when they will get it.

They banked £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.

Not only do clubs not know how much they will receive, they don’t know whether aid will be in the form of grants or loans.

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Hawks boss Paul Doswell yesterday told The News he could see clubs refusing to play if only loans were offered.

Westleigh Park director Trevor Brock said the situation is ‘very worrying indeed.

‘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.’

The 2020/21 National League season didn’t start until early October, as it was thought by then some fans would be allowed back into grounds.

Clubs also 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.

Hawks’ league season runs until Saturday, May 29 – with the play-offs extending the season for the most successful clubs into mid-June.

The National League clubs this week received an update from general manager Mark Ives, who has replaced former chief executive Michael Tattershall.

In his letter, 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 position is that to ensure the sustainability of many clubs it would prefer this funding should be 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, seven National League clubs - Chesterfield, Hartlepool, Notts County, Stockport, Torquay, Wrexham and Yeovil - received £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 - an average of around £260,000 per club.

The 43 clubs in South and North, meanwhile, shared £3.96m between them.

Five clubs - Chester, Dulwich Hamlet, Hereford, Maidstone and York - received £36,000 a month (total £540,000). The other 38, including Hawks, banked £30,000 (total £3.42m).

Overall, the 43 South and North clubs received an average of £92,000 - £168,000 per club less than their National League cousins.

That model - based mainly around last season’s average attendances - angered 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, Hawks were delighted to receive £90,000 but considered it unfair that clubs with far fewer supporters - such as Hungerford - trousered the same amount.

Following on from the complaints, the National League set up an Independent Review Panel with the aim of reviewing the methodology of distribution and suggesting possible changes to future financial aid.

This was not without controversy either, with IRP head David Bernstein, a former FA chairman, publicly criticising the National League just before Christmas for not sharing his panel’s report with the clubs or acting upon the recommendations suggested.

The National League have now 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.