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The truth is out there...

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Post by LB Wed May 17, 2023 4:07 pm

Some of you may recall that back in February 2021 I made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to try and find out exactly what the Government, in the guise of the Minister of Sport, had said to the National League in September 2020 about funding for the season then about to start. I am sure that we are all only too aware of how that season panned out and the ramifications.

In June 2021 my request was refused on the grounds that it wasn't in the public interest to release the information that I had requested. I appealed against this, and it took over a year to August 2022 for them to come back and confirm their original decision (adding this time that there were also issues of commercial confidentiality) and this was only after some prompting from my local MP.  

I contacted the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), which is supposed to hold Government departments to account if they don't deal with FOI requests promptly, when my appeal to the DCMS was refused, but it seems to move just as slowly itself! I had heard nothing from them apart from an acknowledgement last August until an email from them arrived yesterday.

Attached to the email was a decision notice from the ICO that they had considered the case and had ruled that it WAS in the public interest for the information to be released. The DCMS now has either 28 days to appeal against this decision or 35 days to provide the information to me. Although it might seem like 'water under the bridge' now it will be interesting to find out what the National League board knew before the season started, especially in view of what came to light in the 'Gate Money' documentary about the money from the National Lottery.

LB

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Post by comrade powell Wed May 17, 2023 5:43 pm

Thanks Les and well done for your efforts to find out what happened. Wouldn’t it be great if some brave club(s) would ask such questions at the upcoming League AGM.

I spent part of a very long train trip today browsing the St Albans forum following their defeat at Oxford on Sunday…

https://saintschat.proboards.com/thread/4079/play-final-oxford-city-sunday?page=1&scrollTo=60274

Sounds like the ticketing and segregation arrangements were farcical as was the case for the previous game v Worthing. Some very strong arguments for playing the final on a neutral ground. Only adds to my view that this end of season ritual should be ditched at our level.


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Post by LB Thu Jun 08, 2023 11:05 am


LB

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Post by LB Fri Aug 25, 2023 3:01 pm

I did receive the information from the DCMS on the very last day of the 35 they had to provide it. This was in the form of an email exchange between the DCMS and the FA which I have reproduced below:

On 29 September 2020 at 15:37 Anna Deignan (DCMS) emailed Mark Bullingham (FA) saying:
As discussed, I can confirm this position for you to relay privately to the National League. The Government recognises the immediate pressure National League clubs are under in respect of restarting their season. We are working at pace, including with the Football Association, to design a package of support that will give the National League the reassurance it needs. This will include grants to cover essential revenue lost from fans not returning on 1st October as planned. We are committed to play resuming in these historic leagues in a viable way.”    

In response, at 15:57 the same day Mark Bullingham replied:
Many thanks for the email and turning this around so quickly.
 I have relayed this to the key individuals at the National League and am hopeful that
 it will be enough for them to plan to play this weekend. That will mean their player
 contracts for the season will be activated, so the grants will provide them essential
 support over the Winter.
 We are committed to work with you this week to go through the details of the
 package and grants so that we can provide further clarity as soon as we are able to.”


So despite what the DCMS said subsequently it does seem clear that at the end of September 2020 the intention was that the clubs would receive grants, and that that is what the National League was told - probably explains why the DCMS didn't want this in the public domain.

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Post by BenE Fri Aug 25, 2023 4:22 pm

That seems pretty clear to me. Well done LB.
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