National League general manager Mark Ives has hailed safeguards in place to prevent its member clubs being “destroyed” by unscrupulous owners.

Speaking to the Price of Football podcast, he was asked about the different operating models employed at different clubs in the division, with the model employed by the big spenders of Wrexham, Notts County and Chesterfield quite different to those on smaller budgets at the other end of the division.

He also revealed that the first payment of money from the National League TV streaming service would be received by clubs this month and gave his views on the way the league distributed of £10m of taxpayers’ money to clubs during the COVID-19 pandemic

On the subject of ownership, Ives revealed the league checks that clubs are “operating the appropriate way” on a monthly basis with regular contact being made with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), aka “the taxman“.

He was talking specifically about clubs being taken over by big-spending owners – presumably referring to the Hollywood boys at Wrexham – but the comments will be of interest at Yeovil Town with owners-in-waiting SU Glovers being led by Matt Uggla, the son of multi-millionaire business, Lance.

Ives said: “As long as clubs can show they are operating within their means and not causing risk to their clubs from an owner potentially loaning money and later on drawing it all out and destroying the club, then they should be able to operate providing they are operating in an affordable way.

The one good record of the National League is they introduced their own financial reporting mechanism and checking clubs are operating the appropriate way and since that date a true National League club that been in the league for a while has never gone in to insolvency. We have inherited a few but never from our own ranks.

As part of those checks, we check on a monthly basis money owed to HMRC and, prior to COVID, we didn’t have a single club owing money to HMRC. COVID caused a lot of problems and we are now moving back in the right direction, so our checks come very early and we try to deal with that as we see there is a problem arising.

Asked specifically about Southend, Ives immediately pointed out that Southend had come down from the EFL before adding: “I don’t think it would be appropriate to talk about an individual club on air. That would not be right and that would not be fair to the club.

The general manager was also asked about what podcast presenter Kevin Day described as “the fuss” around the distribution of £10m of taxpayers’ money to help clubs in the National League survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This system was the subject of a documentary, ‘Gate Money: Inside Non-League Football’s Funding Fiasco’, which looked in to the decisions made by the League.

Commenting ahead of the documentary’s airing last October, Yeovil Town chairman Scott Priestnall said he opposed the way the money was distributed despite the club receiving “the highest level of distribution” of funding. You can read what he said at the time – here.

He added: “I was one director who voted against and regularly opposed the formula and the way the process was dealt with.”

However, Ives disagrees, he told the podcast: “You try to distribute £10m worth of money and you are going to have some opposition from those people who think it should have been sliced in a different way, so I am satisfied there was nothing untoward and nothing done incorrectly.

The intention of the board was to make sure football could continue whilst in COVID in a safe environment and I can’t criticise the intentions or what they did with that.

On the method for distribution, Ives said: “I think the confusion (around the distribution) came from the suggestion came from the suggestion that it would be dealt with purely on attendances. I would not agree with something being distributed solely (based) on attendances, it is not a consistent approach.

If (the National League board) had time, maybe a cleaner way was to look at the sustainability and the financial records of the club. But it has to be remembered that the money was secured at a time when (the National League) had to get the money distributed fairly quickly across the club where some had not had money for several months, so it was backs against the wall and a question of can we get the games kicking off an help the clubs. If they had more time, maybe they would have come out with a different way of distributing the money.


On streaming, Ives described National League TV as “a really, really big success” and said the first payment from the proceeds of the service would be received by member clubs this month.

The service which launched at the end of last year was “well ahead” of the amount of money it had expected to be bringing in and said the distribution model would benefit all of its 72 member clubs .

That model means that providing you declare the fact you are a Yeovil Town supporter when registering on the National League website then 60% of your fee will go in to the Huish Park coffers. A further 25% goes in to a pot which is distributed among the other teams in the National League pyramid – yes, that means W*ymouth do get a bit of your money. The other 15% goes in to another pot which the League says will be “retained by the league for reinvestment”, Mr Ives did not give any information on where that money was going.

Ives said: “One concern of some clubs was will streaming cause an impact on fans coming through the gates, that doesn’t appear to be the case at the moment. The latest figures show 79% of our clubs have shown increases in attendances compared to the previous year.”

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1 year ago

Do give Ives credit for going on Price of Football – would have known it wasn’t going to be comfortable.
On the £10m – the National League itself commissioned an independent inquiry into the handling of the distribution. And when David Bernstein came back with a report that ripped it to shreds it stuck the report in a draw, locked it, and threw away the key. It has still never been published. The only reason we know it was a damning report was Bernstein felt obliged to write a public letter expressing disappointment that it had been supressed; and opining the likely reason was figures at the NL didn’t like the light shone on their incompetence (or worse, self-interested manipulation) of the distribution.