Boston United chairman David Newton has say on how to continue National League season as Government grants end

However, Pilgrims want any future money to be distributed in 'fairer' manner...

David Newton.

Boston United chairman David Newton says the Pilgrims would be open to each of the three options put forward by the National League as clubs look for a way to overcome losing out on further Government grants - although he believes any future monies handed to clubs must be distributed in a fair manner.

Yesterday the 66 member clubs met with National League interim general manager Mark Ives to discuss how action could continue after it was announced that the £11m survival package had been halted.

The options were:

1 Clubs take on long-term low-interest loans

2 The National League takes on the loan and gives clubs grants, recouping the money from future central payments

3 The season is suspended

While Mr Newton believed all three suggestions could be a possibility, he would only consider each option if it left the competition unaffected, stating that declaring the season null and void would be 'no good'.

"They asked for our views on three areas, one was whether clubs should individually apply for loans that are available, as grants aren't available at the moment," he said.

"Our response is that we would do that, but I know a lot of clubs won't and there's a danger there that would affect the competition as a whole. That's something we probably wouldn't favour."

Considering option two, Mr Newton added: "The other option is the league takes the loan and pays grants to each club which is then recouped over a 10-year period out of the payments we would normally receive. We think that's possibly the best way forward to sort funding out.

"The league are still pushing for it to be grant funded rather than loans and we support that position. Obvioulsy, we're pushing for that as well."

The grant payments have courted controversy by the way they have been distributed so far. Clubs understood the money would be dished out to compensate for the loss of fans and matchday revenue.

However, clubs in the National League received monthly payments of either £95k or £84k, while sides in the South and North divisions, included United, were given either £36k or £30k.

This means clubs in the regional divisions who are well supported are running at a loss and earning less than clubs in the top flight, who could be bringing in more via grants than they would on match days.

"Any income at the moment is great," said Mr Newton. "I don't want to go on about it, but I don't think we got our fair share of the original funding, which we're still trying to pursue with the league.

"What we did say is that this time - if they do go down the route of them taking the loan and giving grants to clubs - then we would only accept that if it was fair an equitable to our football club, rather than what happened last time."

At first, United were against the suggestion of suspending the season for a four-to-six-week period.

However, due to positive Covid tests and bad weather, only 18 matches have been played in the National League North so far in January.

Mr Newton continued: "Initially we weren't in favour of that, but then when we considered it in the current climate, with people in lockdown, the NHS' position and the fact that very few games are being played. We think there's possibly some merit in that as well.

"We've got Covid and waterlogged pitches. So it was felt it wouldn't be too onerous if we took a break as we're finding it very difficult.

"Like York (postponed on the morning of the match due to a visiting player waking up with Covid symptoms), we put a lot of work into the York game and it didn't go ahead.

"If we did that then hopefully by the time we came back in a month or six weeks' time, hopefully a lot of vaccinations of the vulnerable groups will have taken place, the pressure's off the NHS and hopefully we would then get a really good run of games until the end of the season.

"At the moment it's so stop-start for everybody. Initially we weren't in favour, but in balance it could be an option."

The National League secured £11m in grants from the National Lottery to cover the first three-month period of the season, which ended on December 31.

Some chairmen voiced their disapproval when learning those grants would become loans this month, stating they were told in a September email by former CEO Michael Tattersall that the season would only go ahead with correct funding in place.

"I took the original email from Michael Tattersall to read that we would have some grant funding available unless we had fans," Mr Newton said.

"We haven't got fans at the moment so, in reverse, we feel we would get grant funding.

"I understand the Government's position. They're in a difficult position financially, so we do feel that - I wouldn't say we were misled - but we interpreted it that we would be given some money until we could get fans back. We expected that to continue until we could."

Mr Newton added that he is against the season being made null and void, stating: "We don't want null and void. I don't think that's necessary.

"Null and void would be no good to us as we'd still have the players' contracts running through until the end of the season anyway.

"I think it's a bit too early for that, there's too many options available at the moment."

Clubs were due to email their views to the league last night, with the NL board set to meet on Friday.

This weekend's games will all go ahead as scheduled.

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