King's Lynn need around £300,000 to finish their season
Clubs in crisis are playing on for now… King’s Lynn need around £300,000 to finish their season after losing vote to end the campaign as the National League side search for a solution
- King’s Lynn will need another £300,000 to finish the season but are out of cash
- The only help available to the club is in the form of a loan from Sport England
- Clubs voted 13-7 to continue the season, forcing teams to fulfil their fixtures
- Weymouth are one of the clubs who are looking to make cost cutting changes
The shifting sands of the National League teased and tormented at King’s Lynn where the home side departed unsure if a draw against Weymouth marked the end of their first campaign at this level.
Chairman and owner Stephen Cleeve held an impromptu summit on the pitch after the final whistle with manager Ian Culverhouse and director of football Rob Back.
Culverhouse peeled away, clearly unhappy, eyes fixed on the turf as he strode back down the tunnel. The others followed and crisis talks continued indoors. Earlier Cleeve had paused to explain his dilemma, finding a quiet corner away from the pre-match buzz before going off to deliver co-commentary for his club’s streaming service.
King’s Lynn will need another £300,000 to finish the season but are now out of money
King’s Lynn, he estimates, will need another £300,000 to complete the season, but are out of money and the only help available is in the form of a loan from Sport England. In October, the National League started courtesy of a £10million National Lottery grant and what clubs thought was a promise of another grant in January if lockdown prevented them opening the gates to fans.
But that promised grant turned out to be a loan and smaller clubs recoiled, afraid to be saddled with the repayment of a six-figure sum. Understandable when most at this level have flirted with extinction.
Bottom club Dover refused to play on. Cleeve would like to do the same. It seems prudent but clubs voted 13-7 to continue the season so Dover have been charged by the league with failing to fulfil their fixtures. An independent panel will decide their fate, with power to impose any sanction ranging from a slap on the wrist to expulsion.
‘It’s already cost us a lot of money to get into this league,’ said Cleeve, having plugged a shortfall of £140,000 last season. ‘If we stop playing and don’t take the loan, which I’d like to do, the league will charge us. Then the independent panel might want to relegate us or deduct points or fine us and I’m balancing that with the cost of playing on and putting the club into debt for 20 years.
Chairman Stephen Cleeve is concerned about the club’s future after losing vote to end season
‘Imagine if I’d gone to the League at the start of the season and asked them to get rid of the clause that stops me borrowing money because I’d like to borrow £500,000, put it into the playing budget and have a real go at promotion. There’s no way they’d allow it and now that’s what they’re asking me to do. Only without having a go at promotion. Just to complete the season and so other clubs can be promoted.
‘We’re stuck in this horrible situation, whichever way you look it gives you a headache because every solution has repercussions.’ An appeal for funds instigated by Norwich fans quickly raised about £10,000. ‘They have been very kind,’ said Cleeve, but the shortfall remains huge and the search for a solution goes on. However, King’s Lynn do look set to fulfil the fixture at Notts County.
Weymouth, thought to be one of the seven who voted to stop, have since resolved to play on by cutting costs, utilising the furlough scheme for players not in the plans of manager Brian Stock, and searching for new investment.
They travelled from Dorset without club officials and could stretch to a night in a four-star hotel on the way. ‘We will go to the end of the season,’ said Stock, whose side led twice through Andrew Dallas and Andreas Robinson only for Tyler Denton and Cameron King to find equalisers.
Manager Ian Culverhouse (L) has held crisis talks with Cleeve as they search for a solution to finish the season
The draw keeps Weymouth in the bottom three and King’s Lynn just above. Clubs have been told there will be no relegation if they complete the fixtures but verbal assurances are treated with suspicion. National Leagues North and South voted to stop last month, sparking a legal challenge from Dorking, who were on course for promotion and keen to play on.
The legal threat has been withdrawn and a plan is being hatched which might enable those North and South teams who want to play on to come together in a competition, perhaps reviving the chance of promotion.
The National League is already one team down because of Macclesfield’s demise. It is a huge tangle to be unravelled amid a barrage of criticism by the National League board, consisting of elected representatives from clubs and led by independent chairman Brian Barwick, who does not have a vote.
‘The board are united in trying to find a solution to these issues,’ said the National League’s interim general manager Mark Ives. ‘It is frustrating but these difficult times boil down to the problems of Covid.’
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