No relegation means no relegation: the world according to Baz

Cod Almighty | Article

by Barry Whittleton

13 May 2021

Baz argues that a one-season only 26-club fourth flight is the fairest way to resolve the disruption to the game caused by the pandemic

As a Town fan, I accept I have a dog in the fight, but I don't believe any clubs should be relegated to the Conference this season.

Let me be clear: I am not interested in the type of shithousery which denies promotion to any club who have earned it on merit. The winners of the Conference and the play-off winners should take their place in the Football League.

Nor can we claim there is no viable league for Grimsby and Southend to be relegated into. Half the teams in the Conference nowadays are past Football League members, and most operate full-time squads. Even in the days of re-election votes, and before the Conference, there was always a competition for clubs to drop into. It was usually the Northern Premier League as they were almost always teams from north of a line between the Dee and the Humber who were voted out. 

However, the Conference voted to operate in 2020-21 with promotion but no relegation: it is therefore a just and natural action that the Football League should do the same. It would leave the Conference with only 22 clubs, but the precedent for that was set this season when Macclesfield folded and Dover failed to fulfil their fixtures. I don't have anything against Dover and have some sympathy with their predicament but they should surely be relegated: the basis for a league is that everyone abides by its rules.

There is no such precedent for the Football League to operate with 94 clubs. There are obvious problems but they are not insurmountable. Grimsby and Southend for instance would not compete in the League Cup. They would also join the FA Cup at the fourth qualifying stage, the same as other Conference clubs. The bigger hurdle and the one most likely taxing the other league clubs would be revenues, diluted by the two extra clubs. Extra travelling costs could be offset by the travelling fans of two relatively well-supported clubs, or by Grimsby and Southend handing over a percentage of their home gate. The TV money and other incomes paid to all League clubs they would forego, and instead get the revenues offered to Conference clubs.

After one season, the norm could be re-established by relegating four clubs. This would cascade down the tiers of non-League football, promoting more teams than are relegated, so the clubs who missed out in 2020-21 would get an extra chance of promotion in 2021-22.

A Football League expanded for one season does seem the most equitable way to conclude the issue without recourse to legal battles and rancour. I accept it should have been resolved before the season began, although the Conference did not vote to suspend relegation until mid-way through the season. I did find it amusing that the managers of both Hartlepool and Torquay gave quotes to the Non-League Paper last weekend stating that you can't change the rules, apparently forgetting that is exactly what their league did.

At the end of it all, we will watch Town wherever we play in whatever league. As the song goes: "If the Town should play in Rome or Mandalay, we'll be there, we'll be there."

See you all in August.