Eastbourne Borough plan to play on - but demand answers over grant help 'failure'

Eastbourne Borough are prepared to agree to a National League request to play on - but are unhappy over a ' failure to honour the assurances given to clubs when agreeing to start the season without fans' which they say has placed many clubs in an unacceptable predicament,

The home of Eastbourne Borough
The home of Eastbourne Borough

All National League clubs have been asked for their views following news that the next round of funding to enable them to carry on playing without fans in their grounds will be in the form of loans not grants - which they say they were promised.

The league has asked them to agree to continue playing while giving them options over how the major shortfall in required funding can be plugged.

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In agreeing to play on, the Sports said they had to be aware there were many clubs around who would love to be playing on but were not allowed - and their role in the community led them to think it was the right thing to do.

An EBFC statement tonight (Weds) said: "The Board of Eastbourne Borough FC wishes to provide an important update for our members and supporters regarding the 2020/21 National League South season.

"During divisional meetings today it was confirmed to clubs that the £11m package of financial support for January to March will be in the form of loans not grants.

"While discussions continue with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the National League has asked clubs for their views on three options under consideration."

The options are:

1 Clubs to apply for loans from Sport England. Applications assessed on an individual basis against strict criteria with loans repayable at 2% interest over 10 years with no interest or repayments for the first two years.

2 National League to apply for a loan from Sport England to be distributed to clubs as grants. This would impact on future central distributions of money each season as the National League will be responsible for repayment. Grant applications would be assessed based on need and the National League has committed to have an open and transparent distribution model.

3 Suspend the season. An immediate break in the season to allow clubs to access the furlough scheme with a decision on how to resume taken at a later date. There will be no loans or grants available to clubs, however those experiencing financial hardship can submit independent applications to Sport England for support.

Eastbourne Borough added: "As a club we have been clear and consistent in our view that playing behind closed doors was not viable without grants. This was the basis upon which we decided to commence the season in October and remains our position.

"We are and always will be a football club with our community at heart and as such we feel we should be playing football. There are a great many clubs that would love to be able to play and we should continue while we can safely do so, whilst also continuing to play our part in our community.

"We can confirm we have responded to the National League advising we are prepared to consider continuing the season on the basis outlined in option two, but this is subject to the league providing satisfactory answers to a number of questions, including how the grants will be distributed, the impact on future central payments, and how these will be calculated for each club.

"We have also taken the decision to implement COVID-19 testing to aid the protection of the health and safety of all of our team, as this remains paramount. We will need to continue to fund this until funding is provided centrally in line with other elite football leagues.

"Like you, we are supporters of our club as well as custodians and our desire and hope is that we can continue playing for as long as possible, however this cannot be at any cost.

"The failure to honour the assurances given to clubs when agreeing to start the season without fans has placed many clubs in an unacceptable predicament, and we have written to our MP, Caroline Ansell, to seek her support in lobbying the DCMS on our behalf. We again appeal to the DCMS, The FA and the National League to work together to protect our precious football club and the essential role that we play in our local community.

"Thank you for your continued support of our club One Club, One Community "