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Grants promise from National League to clubs ‘unfortunate’ says Sports Minister

In a letter to the FSA, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has confirmed that ‘at no stage’ did the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) offer ongoing to support to the National League only in the form of grants. 

Responding to our letter to the Secretary of State for DCMS Oliver Dowden sent in January, in which we lobbied for non-league clubs to receive grant funding to secure their financial future amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Huddleston reaffirmed the Government position that football should not receive special treatment, and that they had been clear with the National League on their plans for future funding.

“At no stage was the National League told by DCMS that its support would only be in the form of grants,” Huddleston wrote.

“It is unfortunate that the National League chose to communicate this to clubs without first clarifying the nature of the support with DCMS. This appears to be a regrettable misunderstanding but DCMS cannot be held responsible for internal communications between a governing body and its clubs.”

“An offer of grants, where loans could be afforded, would be inconsistent with support offered to other sports.”

The ongoing row over National League funding shows no signs of abating. Clubs are now being threatened with disciplinary action as they weigh up the costs of continuing a season with no spectators and the prospect of being forced to take on debt to do so.

The lack of clarity has led clubs including Dover Athletic and Tonbridge Angels to furlough their entire first team squads, while the National League has charged clubs including Concord Rangers, Dulwich Hamlet and Chippenham Town with failure to fulfil fixtures.

Clubs and fans are now left awaiting the Government’s announcement of its roadmap out of the current lockdown restrictions, expected on 22nd February, to see what lies ahead.

Following their consultation of more than 800 clubs the FA are also expected to await further details from the Government before deciding on the future of the 2020-21 season at Steps 3 to 6 of non-league.

The FSA reiterates our belief that the decisions made on the future of the season should be done with the sustainability of the game at heart. Our hope is that a collegiate and common sense response can be found by the National League and their member clubs to get through the current crisis, which has caused unnecessary division.

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