National League set to hold crunch talks with government over DCMS funding as 2020-21 season hangs in the balance
The National League will be holding talks with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on Monday in their latest attempt to salvage the 2020-21 season.
The current campaign hangs in the balance due to a lack of funding grants provided to clubs while fans aren’t allowed to attend matches.
The DCMS allocated £11 million to be distributed as loans but this offer was subsequently rejected by the vast majority of the National League's 66 member clubs.
Some clubs – including Hartlepool United and Notts County – were in favour of the National League taking on the loan and redistributing it to its clubs as grants in order to allow the season to continue. But following a board meeting on Friday, the league made a u-turn on this option and informed clubs that it would no longer be viable.
Others, mostly in the National League North and South, favoured suspending the season to allow more time for the National League and DCMS to come to a satisfactory solution.
As a result, the sixth tier has been put on hold for at least the next two weeks. While National League matches continued over the weekend, the latest u-turn has cast serious doubt over the season continuing as planned.
The National League will be holding a meeting with the DCMS over Zoom on Monday, January 25 in an attempt to find a resolution.
Miscommunication or misunderstanding between the two has caused a lot of unrest and discontent over the past week or so with the DCMS stating that the suggestion further funding was promised in the form of grants was untrue.
Clubs have been advised to contact their MPs to lobby for further funding to be provided in the form of grants to help subsidise the cost of matches being played behind close doors.
The National League have taken plenty of criticism for their handling of the situation and Hartlepool manager Dave Challinor didn’t hold back when asked his views.
"[The National League] have taken a lot of criticism for how they run things and they’ve done themselves absolutely no favours whatsoever with the decisions that they’ve made,” he said.
“They’ve made themselves look even more unprofessional with the way things are being run.There’s been no decisiveness in their actions. You look at circumstances and clubs were asked to put forward their thoughts with the understanding that a decision would be made from that.
"Then it comes out that the National League North and South wouldn’t play. I don’t get the understanding behind why emails are being sent to National League clubs on Friday night when teams are preparing for a game within 12-hours. In what world does that need to happen?
"It is what it is, we don’t know what we’re up to now, the next few days I imagine will be quite telling.
“But the hope we had in our league from the majority of teams to continue having voted for option two, that hope has been dashed.
"As far as the National League are concerned, that option that was there no longer is for some unknown reason.”
Pools have been handed some hope the season will continue as planned as their match at home to Barnet on February 27 has been chosen for live BT Sport coverage.