Harrogate Town's promotion hopes dealt a blow as League Two clubs propose scrapping relegation

Harrogate Town's promotion hopes were dealt something of a blow on Friday afternoon.
Harrogate Town were second in the National League standings when 2019/20 was suspended, just four points behind leaders Barrow. Picture: Matt KirkhamHarrogate Town were second in the National League standings when 2019/20 was suspended, just four points behind leaders Barrow. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town were second in the National League standings when 2019/20 was suspended, just four points behind leaders Barrow. Picture: Matt Kirkham

At a meeting of League Two clubs to decide on how to conclude the 2019/20 season, members agreed to abandon all remaining fixtures, but also voted 20-4 in favour of not relegating the side that finishes bottom of the division.

This could mean, in theory, that only one club, rather than two, can be promoted from the National League for the 2020/21 campaign, filling the void left by Bury's expulsion.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This development will not be welcomed by Town - second in the National League standings - however, it should be stressed that Friday's vote only represents an expression of preference by League Two's members. It is not a binding decision.

All proposals have to be ratified by both the Football League (EFL) and the Football Association (FA) before they come into action.

A statement released by the EFL confirmed: 'Clubs [in League Two] asked for consideration to be given to suspending relegation to the National League as a result of circumstances created where fixtures cannot be completed. No commitments were made in this respect and the [EFL] board will now consider the implications of the division's preferred approach at their next meeting.'

It was widely anticipated that League Two clubs would vote against relegating one of their own members should their season fail to reach its natural conclusion.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Reports published last month suggested that if the 2019/20 campaign could not be completed, then a second National League team would not be permitted the opportunity to go up.

A letter sent by the National League to its members in April explained: 'If the National League completes its play-offs following the existing approved format and League Two completes its season, it is reasonable to assume the National League play-off winner can be promoted as the ‘National League runner- up’.

However, FA chairman Greg Clarke has subsequently told the Premier League that the FA will not sanction 2019/20 being voided, or relegation being scrapped.

It remains to be seen if the FA will run with this policy throughout the divisions beneath the top-flight, however if they do, then it would seem unlikely that they would accept League Two's proposal to spare their bottom-ranked team from the drop.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Stevenage occupied last place in the fourth tier when competition was suspended and would remain 24th if a points-per-game method was used to decide final league positions.

The National League announced earlier this month that they would wait for the EFL to reach a firm decision on the conclusion of their season before determining their own issues of promotion and relegation.

There is still a possibility that play-offs could take place, however with the majority of member clubs in favour of them being scrapped, it seems unlikely that they will go ahead.

Voiding the season and expunging all results could also still be an option presented to clubs to vote on.