National League: Ex-FA chairman David Bernstein says National League funding review 'pointless'

By Simon StoneBBC Sport
David Bernstein
David Bernstein stepped down as chairman of the FA in 2013 after three years in the role

Former FA chairman David Bernstein has condemned the National League over their handling of the funding row that has left some of its clubs furious and described the decision to set up the independent panel, which he led, to look into it as "pointless".

The league was given £10m by the government to ensure the season started as planned in October by helping to cover the costs of clubs while matches are indefinitely being played behind closed doors.

It was generally accepted the money would be distributed on a pro-rata basis in order to cover lost gate receipts.

However, to the frustration of some clubs, the National League board, headed by chairman Brian Barwick, a former FA chief executive, came up with a different funding method.

Clubs in the National League's three divisions have received payments ranging from £30,000 to £95,000 per month, but while the best supported clubs have been placed in the higher bracket, they feel the move has disadvantaged them.

Amid the anger, there were demands for Barwick to resign, whilst chief executive Mike Tattersall has confirmed he will leave the organisation on 31 December.

The National League subsequently launched an independent review, led by Bernstein, but despite receiving its recommendations last week, has neither acted upon them nor communicated them to their clubs.

Senior National League officials have said some of them are "unworkable" and Tattersall wrote to the clubs on 18 December saying that, after taking legal advice, the third central payment would following the same procedure as previous ones.

This has prompted an angry response from Bernstein.

In an open letter to Barwick, he says the independent panel is "profoundly disappointed" its report has not been shared "in line with open and proper good governance", adding that it was "in the public interest" given the source of the funding.

Bernstein also said the plan to make December's payment using the same model as previous months was "concerning" and that there was a "lack of concern" around potential conflicts of interest.

Given the panel's only brief was to deal with the payments covering this year, Bernstein said the National League's conduct made the entire review "pointless".

"We note the lack of courtesy in acknowledging our efforts and in responding to our correspondence and can only interpret that as an attempt to undermine the credibility of the independent panel," he wrote.

In a statement, the National League said the panel's report "contained some constructive points concerning the methodology of distributing grant funding between clubs, and which followed the input of member clubs who were mainly supportive of the distribution method employed to date".

"The board is still seeking clarification from the panel on the content of its report, and once the board has received such further information, it will take whatever steps are necessary," it added.

"Once this process is complete the full report and background information will be shared with all interested parties."

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