Nine National League clubs call for the resignation of National League chairman

Saturday 14th November 2020

Nine National League clubs have called for the National League chairman Brian Barwick to resign.

Andrew Graham, the chairman of National League North side Hereford, issued a statement yesterday, which has been supported by one top-flight club (Chesterfield), five National League North clubs (AFC Fylde, AFC Telford United, Chester, Hereford, Kidderminster Harriers) and three clubs in the National League South (Dorking Wanderers, Dulwich Hamlet and Maidstone United).

It was announced on 21 October that the National League would receive a £10m bailout from the National Lottery.

Seven National League clubs, Chesterfield, Hartlepool United, Notts County, Stockport County, Torquay United, Wrexham and Yeovil Town will receive £95,000 a month, the 16 other clubs (including Bromley and Dover Athletic) will receive £84,000 a month.

Five National League North and South clubs, Chester, Dulwich Hamlet, Hereford, Maidstone United and York City will receive £36,000 a month, the other 37 clubs will receive £30,000 a month.

This funding is to help cover clubs lost gate revenue from the delay to fans being permitted to return to stadiums, which was originally scheduled for 1 October, a couple of days before the start of the National League campaign.

The decision was taken to pause this relaxation of the rules on 22 September, in order to stem rising coronavirus infection rates across the country.

The statement issued by the chairman of Hereford Football Club yesterday said:

“We welcome intervention by the DCMS, the FA and The National Lottery to compensate National League clubs for lost gate receipts due to fans being prevented from attending matches, indeed we are exceptionally thankful for the intention of this generosity.

"It remains a fact that it is on this basis that we agreed to start the 2020/21 season and thereby trigger contractual obligations.

"However, we were disappointed to learn two weeks ago that the National League had decided to allocate these funds based on a subjective judgement of clubs’ needs and not based on lost gate receipts.

"Since then many of our clubs have been in continuous communication with the National League Chairman Brian Barwick, regarding how the distribution method was decided; why the National League Board rejected Government guidelines on using funding to compensate lost gate receipts; whether National League Board members have been allowed to take a decision that directly affects their own clubs financially, appearing to breach their own Articles of Association in so doing, and why we believe that an independent panel should now be appointed urgently, to review the whole matter."

Talks have now reached a stalemate and the aggrieved clubs’ spokesperson, Andrew Graham, Chairman of Hereford Football Club, states: “We are aware of the method for determining the allocation of funds to National League Clubs and are concerned that the outcome of this method does not represent the initial purpose of the funds, as stated by the Department for Culture Media & Sports.

“Given the absence of explanation and transparency regarding our concerns, and a refusal to date to correct what to us appear as unacceptable conflicts of interest at Board level, a growing number of clubs who have been adversely affected by this action, have lost confidence in the leadership of the National League and its decision-making mechanism."

Graham stated: “£10 million has been handed to the National League thus far. This is a significant amount of money for which we are extremely grateful. However, there has been unsatisfactory transparency over how funds were allocated and there are inexplicable inconsistencies, which amount to some clubs receiving five times as much in funding as others, per absent spectator. As a result, some of our clubs will now face income shortfalls, which may threaten their existence.

“Despite rumours of matters being discussed at sub-committee level of the National League we have received no meaningful communication regarding our request for an independent panel review of the allocation. This is an indefensible continuation of apparent disregard for the justified concerns we raise and it is for these reasons that we are left with no option other than to immediately call for the National League Chairman Brian Barwick to resign and for an independent panel to be appointed to review this matter transparently and objectively.”

Graham added: “Clubs should now be focussing on how to continue providing football facilities and entertainment for their communities, backed up by generous Government financing. Instead some clubs are facing financial turmoil, due to what appears to be the National League Board’s serious errors of judgment in making unilateral, subjective decisions regarding distribution, which ignore Government guidelines and ignore the Board’s conflicts of interest. Our clubs cannot let this pass unchecked, as it has resulted in some clubs now facing serious financial difficulty.”

A National League spokesperson said: "It is disappointing that a small number of clubs are seeking to circumvent the proper channels for challenging decisions, and it is regrettable their public statement fails to recognise the National League has already confirmed in writing to each of them the formation of an independent review committee to hear and assess their grievances.

"The National League's core objective continues to be to try and ensure all its 66 member clubs are able to continue to play behind closed doors this season and to remain in business as much-valued community clubs."