Harrogate Town boss urges National League to 'be fair' when they decide issues of promotion and relegation

Harrogate Town boss Simon Weaver. Picture: Matt KirkhamHarrogate Town boss Simon Weaver. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town boss Simon Weaver. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver has urged the National League to "be fair" when they meet on Wednesday to discuss how best to conclude 2019/20.

It is expected that the league's board will decide upon a framework for determining issues of promotion and relegation before presenting their proposals for member clubs to vote on.

Among the most pressing matters up for debate will be whether to hold play-offs, or decide who finishes the campaign as 'runner-up' - and is therefore eligible for promotion to League Two - using points-per-game ratio.

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With Town second in the fifth tier and just four points behind leaders Barrow when the season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, Weaver is adamant that the very least his team deserves is a shot at the play-offs.

If this is not possible, then the Harrogate chief says the Football League's rules are clear on how to determine who is eligible to claim the division's second promotion spot.

Article 10.1.3 in section three of the EFL's regulations states: 'At the end of each season the champion club of the National League and the National League runner-up (be that determined on the basis of league position alone or by way of play off competition) shall be eligible to apply for promotion to the league.'

"We've been consistent in what we've said all the way through this process. We didn't want the season to end, but we've maintained that the play-offs should go ahead when it's safe enough for them to take place," Weaver said.

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"We want to earn promotion on the pitch, but, if I'm honest, I can't see the play-offs happening because the overwhelming majority of National League clubs were against them when the matter was last discussed.

"In terms of voiding the play-offs, if that happens, then I think that from a selfish point of view it paves the way for us to go up. The EFL rules are clear, the winner of the play-offs or the division's runner-up takes the second promotion place.

"The National League have said that they are determined to retain two clubs going up into the EFL. If they really do want that then I'm confident that they will be fair with what they decide at Wednesday's meeting.

"If you go back to the rulebook, it's there in black and white. The time for the National League to be fair with what they decide is now."

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The National League has been waiting for the Football League to act before moving to wrap up its own season

On Tuesday, League Two sides voted almost unanimously to curtail 2019/20 with immediate effect shortly after it was confirmed that the EFL as a whole had opted to retain promotion and relegation, decide final standings by points-per-game ratio and proceed with play-offs.

This means that the bottom-placed team in the fourth tier - currently Stevenage - will be demoted and two sides should be eligible for promotion from the National League.

And although a decision to follow the rest of non-league in voiding 2019/20 could still scupper Town's hopes, Weaver doesn't believe such a measure should even be considered, given that the EFL didn't entertain the idea.

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"I don't see why null and void should even be on the table. It shouldn't be in the National League resolution for clubs to vote on," he added.

"Michael Tattersall [National League chief executive] has been very clear about our league being tied to League Two like boats and the EFL didn't propose voiding the season as an option.

"If the National League is serious about falling in line with the Football League and the UEFA directive on deciding seasons by sporting merit then we have to follow suit.

"It would beggar belief if our league went away from the precedent set by the EFL."

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The EFL released a statement on Tuesday confirming that the team who finishes bottom of League Two will be relegated following the outcome of their Emergency General Meeting.

It said: 'Under the proposals agreed by clubs, the 24th-placed club in the League Two will be relegated to the National League provided the board receives the necessary assurances that the National League will start season 2020/21 (i.e. the relegated club in League Two has somewhere to play).'

Addressing this caveat, Weaver said: "I think that there will be a season. I'm sure that the National League will start, but there might not be a fixed date for a while."

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