By club co-owner Terry Casey
The distribution of the £10million grant from the National Lottery to the Vanarama National League has left me utterly confused and bitterly disappointed.
Maidstone United Football Club have many things to be proud of: one being the way that we run the business in a sustainable way, reinvesting the profits from our activities back into the club, and two the sheer volume of deeply committed supporters who come and support the Stones and pay their entrance fees.
The Government was specific in that the money they brokered for our football clubs, via the National Lottery, was designed to ’replace lost gate revenue.’ Clubs agreed to start the season, taking on trust the promise to cover these lost revenues. This has not happened.
Our average gate over the last two seasons has been 2,000 per match and our club will receive 36k per month from the National League. This is some 50% below our estimated monthly shortfall! It is also nearly £50k per month less than Dover who attract just over 1,000 per match.
On the face of this it looks stupid but when it becomes clear that those sitting on the Board making the decisions are heavily biased towards their own financial wellbeing, then it’s not just a stupid decision but possibly corrupt.
For the Board of the National League to arbitrarily decide the first thing that they will do is take 60% for their own clubs and give the South and North just 20% each looks stupid, especially as they have no mandate to keep the money for themselves as they should be representing the interests of all of their member clubs.
We are sure that the league sponsors such as Vanarama, BT Sport and the National Lottery will be carefully reconsidering their sponsorships on the back of this scandalous decision!
This is a clear case of the Board not serving the membership and a clear misuse of the way that the money was supposed to be spent.
For Tonbridge Angels to get 30k per month on their crowds of 600 must have felt like Christmas to them but for Hungerford Town to get 30k per month on their crowds of just over 300 it must feel like Christmas, New Year and Easter all at once.
This is utterly crass, short-sighted and stupid, with the Government’s words ringing in our ears that the money is: ‘to be spent on lost gate revenue.’
Hungerford and Tonbridge never ever had this amount of gate revenue so they are now in a massively better position as they will have spare money to sign players that they would never have been able to afford to attract.
This can also be seen with Oxford City and their 350 supporters getting the same 30k as Havant and Waterlooville with their 1,400 supporters.
The corruption and conspiracy theories abound when Boreham Wood, who have already made public their association with Sports Minister Oliver Dowden, and who have 730 supporters get just 10k per month less than Notts County with their 5,000 supporters.
Dagenham and Barnet, with their crowds of 1,200, also do well from the distribution – again just 10k per month less than Wrexham with their crowds of 4,000.
Please bear in mind that both these two clubs have members on the Board before you decide whether this constitutes abuse of power, conflict of interest or stupidity.
This is one of the most extraordinary cases of the misuse of grant funding that I have ever witnessed.
The FA and National League had a clear mandate to spend the money on lost gate revenue. What they have done is ignore this and instead allowed National League Board Members to favour some clubs with outrageous amounts of money that far exceed their gate receipts.