Proper Financial Support For Clubs

Update Fri 22nd Jan’21 – Matt Western MP writes a letter of support for Leamington FC’s case to DCMS Sec. of State Oliver Dowden – Click here for full letter – extract follows:

I am extremely concerned to hear of the desperate situation facing National League football clubs including Leamington FC in my constituency. The club chairman tells me that many clubs are on the brink and that Leamington will also be facing severe difficulties within months.

Leamington, like many other clubs, is now operating on full pre-pandemic costs with players and staff wages to be paid with only negligible incoming commercial revenue. The DCMS has offered a further £11 million on top of the £10 million it has already provided in grant funding, only this time in the form of loans. Importantly, club say they would not have entered the funding agreement with the government at the beginning of the season had they known that support grants, intended to keep the season going in the absence of fans, would be replaced by loans.

Already cash-strapped clubs are now facing the threat of financial insecurity and debt. Clubs have not only lost the revenue they would generate from ticket sales, but they also use vital hospitality and sponsorship revenue. As I say, many are on the brink.

It is becoming increasingly likely that clubs will tell the national league board to cancel the season tomorrow, so furlough payments can ease their financial strain. This will mean the initial £10 million grant funding would be totally in vain – with the league season unceremoniously cut short and rendered null and void. The National League claim is the cost of the government in furlough payments would exceed the cost of the loans offered, or the grant funding clubs desire, to see them to the end of the season.

Update Thurs 21st Jan’21 – Click here full for Club Statement. – extract follows:

Chairman Jim Scott today held a meeting with local MP Matt Western to advise him of our concerns and the situation we find ourselves in and to seek his support in lobbying the DCMS on our behalf, for funding to be in the form of grants and not through loans. This he agreed to do and is a process that has or is being replicated at National League clubs across the country.

Last September the club agreed to the return to playing football on the basis that grants were available until such time as supporters were allowed to return to games. We were given assurances from the National League and FA that such funding would be provided although the detail for the period January to March 2021 was unknown at that stage.

Following a meeting of all directors last night the club submitted its’ response to the National League stating that we did not see individual loans to clubs as a viable option and would require clarification on the second option re the distribution model and future impact on central funding, before deciding whether we see it as a viable option.

Whilst this has been a successful season for the team thus far and there is a desire for a continuation, it does not make financial sense to continue playing behind closed doors with the dramatically reduced income streams and no grant funding. Nothing would give us greater pleasure than continuing to entertain you, albeit via live streaming, but we will not put the club into debt and risk our long-term security. We are a massive community asset that provides much to the health, well being and education of local residents and this must not be compromised.

We thank all our supporters and commercial partners for their continued support and will keep you updated on matters as they develop.

Brakes Trust Letter to Matt Western, MP Warwick and Leamington – Friday 15th January 2021.

Hi Matt,

Thank you for your support for the case for COVID grants etc for our local non-league teams and asking searching questions in the House of Commons regarding Leamington FC in particular.

As the pandemic and its effects continue National League North clubs have written to Secretary of State Oliver Dowden, the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and The FA asking for reassurance that the promise of financial support that was made when restarting the season behind closed doors is delivered.

The Winter Survival Support package for sports announced by the Government before Christmas to be administered by Sport England provides loans and not grants. The clubs claim that there was no mention of loans when clubs agreed in October to start the season behind closed doors.
They believe that financial support in the shape of loans is a betrayal of the promises made before the season restarted, arguing that many clubs may have taken the decision not to commence the season if they had known they would be required to take on debt.
With the controversy surrounding the initial package of £10m of National Lottery funding still to be settled, clubs are fearful that loans will further endanger the financial stability of clubs.

This is at the same time as the DCMS has just announced that Over £300m of grants will be made available to arts organisations to transition to full reopening for Apr-Jun’21. Will comparable help be made available to community based football clubs?

If your colleagues do not appreciate the benefits that such football clubs provide it should be noted that:
– Clubs have an underpinning effect not only on local economic activity but also a pivotal role in their communities, and are a key element in community, social and physical activity networks for local organisations and residents.

– The loss of a local club often means fewer opportunities for children and young adults to participate in sport, fewer opportunities for volunteering, and fewer accessible and affordable venues for community groups.

– According to an FA survey published in July 2019 Grassroots football is worth in excess of £10bn per year to the UK economy, creating more than £400m in contributions to the Exchequer and more than £40m in health benefits.

– The sheer number of clubs – the national league system consists of nearly 1,600 clubs competing in more than 100 leagues – means the demise of non-league will be very keenly felt by millions of people all across England and Wales.

I trust that you will continue to be supportive of all local sports clubs in our constituency.
Yours sincerely,

Nick Rogers (Chairman Brakes Trust)

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