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National League board slammed by independent panel over distribution of National Lottery funding


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An independent committee set up to review the National League’s distribution of lottery funding have reached a damning verdict.

The league finally agreed to the review after pressure from clubs, including Maidstone United, who were unhappy with the allocation of a £10 million bail-out.

National League chairman Brian Barwick Picture: Matthew Walker
National League chairman Brian Barwick Picture: Matthew Walker

Funding was set to be based on lost gate revenue but the board adopted a different model.

With the review complete, aggrieved clubs were dealt a further blow with the board resisting requests to publish the findings.

The chairman of the committee, former FA chief David Bernstein, has subsequently written an open letter criticising the actions of the board.

Bernstein says they are "profoundly disappointed” the report hasn’t been made public.

He also raised “concern” that the "NL are making the December payments on the same basis as the previous two months thereby increasing the imbalance as described in our report”.

The former Manchester City chairman also accused the board of “trying to undermine the credibility of the independent panel”.

In a letter to league chairman Brian Barwick, Bernstein wrote: "I would summarise the Independent Panel’s majority view as follows:

"1) We are profoundly disappointed that you have not shared our report with your clubs not least because we believe that this should be done in line with open and proper good governance and that the NL was committed to ensuring that the funding was distributed in a transparent manner. We also believe disclosure is in the public interest given that the funding was provided by Camelot.

David Bernstein led the independent review into the National League's allocation of National Lottery funding
David Bernstein led the independent review into the National League's allocation of National Lottery funding

"2) We are concerned that the NL are making the December payments on the same basis as the previous two months thereby increasing the imbalance as described in our report. This is particularly concerning if, as we suspect, the arrangements for 2021 may be on a different basis. We encourage interested parties to keep a close eye on this.

"3) We note the lack of response regarding governance issues and the apparent lack of concern around conflicts of interest and compliance with your own Articles of Association.

"4) We note the lack of courtesy in acknowledging our efforts and in responding to correspondence and what we can only interpret as attempts to undermine the credibility of the Independent Panel.

"The funding for the period from January to March 2021 will come from a different source and the terms are still to be resolved.

"The panel is therefore unable to consider this period.

"Therefore, if as you claim, our mandate was limited only to examining this 3 month period then setting up this panel was pointless.

"In these unfortunate circumstances, we do not propose to enter into any further dialogue with the National League and will leave it to the various complaining parties to pursue matters as they feel appropriate."

Maidstone were among nine clubs who previously called for Barwick to resign over the funding row.

The directors hit back but calls for Barwick and fellow board members to stand down look set to increase in light of the panel's findings.

Stones co-owner Oliver Ash said on Twitter: "The chairman of the independent review committee has spoken.

"Difficult to imagine a more damning condemnation of the National League board, at least of those on it who have continually flouted the rules and ignored the interests of all 66 clubs. FA, over to you."

Read more: The latest sports news in Kent

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