Harrogate Town boss welcomes EFL plan to retain relegation throughout footballing pyramid

Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver has welcomed the news that the English Football League intends to retain relegation throughout its three divisions.

Friday, 22nd May 2020, 9:18 am
Updated Friday, 22nd May 2020, 5:57 pm
Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Clubs in League Two last week proposed that demotion to the National League be scrapped, a move that would likely have damaged the Wetherby Road outfit's chances of promotion had it been passed.

However, in a statement released on Thursday, the EFL confirmed that in the event of a coronavirus-enforced early curtailment to 2019/20, promotions and relegations would take place for the 'integrity of the game'.

This would mean that the bottom-placed team in League Two would drop out of the division, resulting in two promotion spots being available to fifth-tier clubs, provided that the National League can guarantee that its 2020/21 season will start and the relegated side will have a league to play in next term.

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"This is obviously more positive from our point of view. At least the door is still open," said Weaver, whose team were second in the National League standings when 2019/20 was abandoned.

"I couldn't see relegation [from League Two] being scrapped because I don't think you can expect to have teams going up but not down in the same division.

"In terms of the integrity of the game, promotion and relegation are important."

The EFL's recommended framework is as follows:

1. Resuming the 2019/20 season with the existing format remains the most appropriate course of action from a sporting integrity perspective, but the Board accepts there are circumstances that may lead to curtailment, (as has been demonstrated with League Two) or a situation subsequently transpires whereby the season is unable to conclude.

2. This means that in the event of an early curtailment:

a. Final divisional placings should be determined on unweighted points per game (if required).

b. Promotion and relegation should be retained.

c. Play-Offs should be played in all circumstances but should not be extended (beyond four teams).

3. If a scenario arises whereby the Play-Offs cannot be played, the EFL Board will determine the appropriate course of action.

4. The Board considers that the majority required to curtail the 2019/20 Season in any division should be 51%. Determining whether or not to curtail the season is a decision for each division to take.

5. The principle of relegation across all three divisions is integral to the integrity of the pyramid, from the Premier League down to the National League, provided we have assurances that the National League will start Season 2020/21 (i.e. the relegated Club in League Two has somewhere to play).

6. Any regulatory solution should be relevant and specific to the current challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and reach a conclusion that is clear and effective with the impact and justifications easy for all stakeholders to understand.

The National League has been waiting for the EFL to decide how it plans to conclude 2019/20, before it determines its own issues of promotion.

The National League is yet to come to a decision on whether it will use a points-per-game method to determine final league positions, if it wants to hold play-offs, or if the season should be voided and all results expunged.

As for what happens next, Weaver said: "The next step now will be for the National League to decide whether it is possible for our play-offs to take place, because that idea wasn't completely discarded.

"Before a decision can be made, I expect that the National League board will have to present clubs with the financial implications and the situation regarding the health and well-being of the players, should we try and return to training in order to play play-off matches.

"I cannot see null and void being an option at all. The National League has said it wants to retain its two promotion places, so why put those at risk?

"The EFL have made their proposals, and if we are tied like boats like Michael Tattersall [National League chairman] has said then you would expect us to follow their lead and not void the competition."