Matt Maher: Bailout will still leave a number of clubs feeling short-changed

When a £10million government bailout for the National League was agreed last month, it should have been a blessed relief for clubs who for months had existed on a knife edge.

Telford manager Gavin Cowan
Telford manager Gavin Cowan

Instead it has increasingly become a source of concern and consternation, due to the ludicrous way the league has decided to divvy up the dough.

The rescue package, designed to fund the National League’s three divisions until the end of December, followed urgent negotiations after the government’s decision to delay indefinitely the return of supporters to stadiums.

Confirmation of its agreement allowed the season to kick-off as scheduled on October 3, with matches taking place behind closed doors.

Yet clubs remained in the dark as to the sums they would each individually receive until last week, when it was finally revealed how the money would be split.

Despite requesting each club submit a detailed breakdown of their own financial situation, the league took the decision to distribute the money roughly evenly, with little regard given to either budgets or attendances.

That means Kidderminster Harriers, who are full-time, stand to receive the same £30,000-a-month figure as almost every other club in National League North despite several of their rivals running part-time operations with considerably smaller costs.

AFC Telford United, meanwhile, will receive the same sum as Brackley Town, whose average attendance is less than a third of that at the New Bucks Head.

Telford boss Gavin Cowan will have been speaking for many last week when he said the decision “defied belief”.

“It has taken so many weeks and to be so simplistic it defies logic,” he said.

The most extreme example can be found in the National League Premier Division where Boreham Wood, who average just 724 fans per match, are set to earn £252,000 over the next three months.

They are among the winners but for many other clubs there is a feeling of having been misled.

Back on September 30, sports minister Nigel Huddlestone told the House of Commons the bailout, which has been funded by the National Lottery, would “absolutely be focused on gate receipts”. Clearly, that has not been the case.

Harriers chief executive Neil Male has written to the league to express his “extreme concern”. After months of operating under severe financial pressures, clubs like his and Telford deserved far better.

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