Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

The Top 91 Clubs?

Posted by John Beech on May 29, 2010

The uncertainty and overall shambles characterising the allocation of clubs next season in the Non-League divisions (see Appendix E: Tough Love for Salisbury City?) is in danger of spreading to the Football League.

Grimsby Town, together with Darlington, occupied the two bottom slots of League 2 at the end of the season just gone, and are therefore relegated.  Stockport County, who finished bottom of League 1 and are thus destined for League 2 this coming season, remain in Administration, having entered that state back in April 2009.  Football League rules state that a club cannot enter two consecutive seasons in Administration, and, unless Stockport County rapidly get their act together to come out of Administration, they will be ineligible to begin the coming season in League 2.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, Grimsby Town approached the Football League to enquire whether Stockport County’s failure to come out of Administration would mean they (Grimsby, having finished bottom but one) would then be reprieved.

The answer they received from the Football League is that they would not be reprieved should Stockport fail to come out of Administration, and “according to Football League rules, we would operate with 23 clubs in League Two next season” (1).

Now, some might see Grimsby’s attempt to gain a reprieve as clutching at straws and that they should just quietly accept relegation.  That is a matter for debate.  But what is a matter of fact is that Football League rules, designed to punish a club for financial misdemeanours (in this case, Stockport, who are not even actually in League 2), would result in one League 2 club every Saturday next season sitting twiddling its thumbs and failing to take much needed revenue at the turnstiles.  In other words, the Football League would have contrived to hit every club in League 2 financially as a result of the financial misdemeanours of a previous season’s League 1 club!  It frankly defies belief.

No doubt Grimsby would also point to the case of Forest Green, potentially reprieved in the Conference National if Salisbury City are ejected for financial problems.  But then, consistency never was a strong point of football governance.

2 Responses to “The Top 91 Clubs?”

  1. Mike Dimmick said

    The League now know who has been promoted and who relegated and has to get on with the complex job of generating the fixture list – appeasing the TV rights holders, the local police, pairing clubs to avoid crowd trouble, and trying to avoid sending north-east clubs to the south-west (or vice versa) over Christmas.

    This process does take some time. The BBC ran an article on it last summer:

    Changing who’s in which division will cause them to have to throw out everything done so far and start again. It’s a lot easier if, after a deadline, any clubs dropping out simply cause those fixtures to be dropped.

    • John Beech said

      And by the same token, it would be a lot easier if the ‘complexity’ of promotion and relegation was dropped too. 😉

      Complex it no doubt is, but that shouldn’t over-ride the ethical aspects of genuine appeals. And the Football League and the Premier League receive plenty of money from the TV rights holders, not to mention now the direct revenue stream of media rights to publish details of the fixtures – surely sufficient to help ease resolving the complexity.

      Complex or not, it makes no sense to deny one club matchday revenues every Saturday. Or fans one home match per season.

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