Yeovil Town chairman Scott Priestnall has issued an open letter to supporters.
Dear Glovers Fans,
As you may be aware there is a resolution being sent to all clubs to vote on the whether to end the season or not. Many clubs will be feeling financial hardship at this current time, due to not receiving any central funding income or grants for January. It is my belief that clubs should hold off voting at this time to allow a new PR campaign, that has been sanctioned by the National League board, to take effect. This campaign includes interviews with BBC, ITV, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Associated Press, Press Association and others to be shortly confirmed. The message is simple…
1 – Loans endanger our leagues. Grants are required.
2 – Moving the goal posts at this stage of our season with contractual obligations in place is catastrophic for the game at our level.
3 – Taking loans just delays the pain and financial difficulty down the road. Plus some clubs can’t take loans as part of their corporate structure. Therefore, it is not a solution that fits all.
4 – Denying grants would be devastating to local communities who not only utilise our facilities but offer a real community hub and has the capability to improve peoples’ mental health in these difficult times.
Let me make my personal position clear. We are not looking for a hand out from the tax payer. The proposed grants will cost less than the potential cost to the public purse if our game is ended for the season and our players and staff are furloughed.
Ourselves at Yeovil Town FC are extremely grateful for the government COVID support grant of £10m for 66 clubs in October, which enabled our clubs to start the league season and continue to play a valuable role in the heart of the community, especially when so many local people are suffering due to the pandemic. This essential grant was life-support funding as we battled the impact of Coronavirus with the loss of fans attending matches. Quite simply without fans and the revenue they bring each week, we could not exist.
Throughout the entire process the offer of government support was framed as a COVID response grant and in no written or verbal communication were the terms of the extended period amended to become loans, loans simply don’t work and as part of discussions with National League clubs, 82% voted against taking on loans.
National League clubs are different to the vast majority of the domestic sports ecosystem that would have access to the Sport Winter Survival Package. I can’t think of another sport where clubs are professional at level 5 or 6. Most low league/amateur sports clubs charge their members and players to play. National League clubs have a wage bill and we pay our players and staff from the revenue we generate. This is an important distinction from other sports and clubs.
Should the league vote to close the current season, the players and club staff would be placed on the government furlough scheme. It has been calculated for National League clubs for the three months January to March 2021 would be a £14m cost to the public purse: £3m MORE than an appropriate grant. Plus clubs would still need to access Sport England loans to cover operating costs for the remainder of the season.
We welcome the support of the Leader of Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, and the Shadow Sports Minister, Alison McGovern, who attended meetings with the National League clubs: “Labour is clear: no community should lose a much-loved football club because of Covid” [Sir Keir Starmer, via Twitter – January 29th 2021]
Sports Minister Nigel Huddlestone has said: “If clubs… can demonstrate it needs grant funding urgently to survive, we will ensure that option is available. We will not let clubs go to the wall." [via Sky Sports – January 27th 2021: https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11095/12202150/national-league-17-clubs-group-together-to-call-for-season-to-be-curtailed-unless-covid-funding-is-found]
The National League throughout this has been in open dialogue with the government on a long-term, sustainable plan that ensures the viability and longevity of the National League and I urge Mr Huddlestone to fulfil his promise as our clubs can only survive on grants – not loans, and he now risks many club going to the wall this month if help is not received.
I ask our community and supporters to get behind the new petition. Please sign it and spread across social media. This is about 66 community clubs working together.
Part of the National League campaign includes establishing an online petition on Change.org. The link for this online petition can be found below.
The effect that this pandemic has had on all our 66 community clubs is immeasurable and we’re now only asking the government to extend the support that they originally offered.
My best regards to you and your families in these most difficult times.