National League clubs are today having another attempt at finding a solution to the ending of their 2019/20 season.
On Monday 15th June, a proposal from the National League board was submitted to a vote of their clubs. Much controversy surrounded this vote, with a number of clubs unhappy at a perceived injustice. Hence, it became a mess.
Update on National League Vote
Now, a modified idea has been put to clubs, who have been given a deadline of 5pm today to accept.
The original proposal would have seen play-offs taking place in the highest division of the National League (Step 5 of English football) only. Play-offs from the North and South divisions (Step 6) were to be scrapped. This was because the National League ruled that Step 6 fell outside the Government’s category of ‘elite sport’.
Understandably, a number of these clubs, most notably Havant & Waterlooville and York City, were unhappy.
Alan Mak, the MP for Havant, even intervened to ask the National League to reverse their decision. Mak stated that the Government had no objections. This led to a social media campaign, #promote2, applying further pressure.
Today’s vote, which is expected to pass, now has provisions for the play-offs across Steps 5 and 6. The final league placings will be decided under a points-per-game (PPG) calculation.
Whether the North and South play-offs actually go-ahead is another matter. The estimated costs of complying with COVID-19 regulations, such as testing,g is somewhere between £20,000 to £50,000. Without fans in attendance, this cost cannot be off-set by crowd revenue.
It is expected that all eligible clubs will try to play, having fought so hard for the reinstatement of the play-offs. For the sake of fairness, play-offs in both National League North and South must take place. This will be in around a month’s time, as much preparation is required.
Ups and Downs
In turn, this will relegate clubs from the National League. Under the previous proposal, only Chorley would have suffered a demotion. Now, AFC Fylde and Ebbsfleet United will also be relegated under PPG. A vacancy has arisen due to Bury’s expulsion from the Football League; Maidenhead United are expected to gain a reprieve.
If passed, the vote will also confirm Barrow as Step 5 champions, whilst Wealdstone secure promotion from Step 6 as champions. However, under PPG, York City will slip to second place in the National League North behind Kings Lynn. The Minstermen will now have to win the play-offs to join Kings Lynn. At least promotion remains a possibility, although this is not the solution that York had hoped for.