In the same week that Premier League football is due to return behind closed doors, clubs in the National Leagues are left to vote on the outcome of their leagues. The original proposal from the National League of promoting Barrow and completing the playoffs in non-leagues top flight whilst relegating Chorley and promoting Kings Lynn and Wealdstone has been met with anger by clubs in the National South and North.
The idea of promoting Kings Lynn and Wealdstone has been conducted by using points per game, this has been met by a campaign started by York City, who were top of the league when football was suspended, called #Promote2. In a normal season, once every game has been played, the top team in each division wins promotion whilst the teams in second place down to seventh compete in the playoffs. We asked for supporters' opinions on the situation on social media, with a Spennymoor Town supporter stating "At the beginning of the season the plan was to promote two teams from the North and the South so that's what should be implemented. If the playoffs aren't possible then the top two should be promoted."
With York City and Havant & Waterlooville being the two teams who will benefit if the top two are awarded promotion, the teams have received plenty of support with Portsmouth FC showing their support on Twitter and other supporters and clubs calling for the National League to protect the integrity of the competition.
One of the clubs who could be effected the most is Ebbsfleet United who occupy the final relegation spot in the national league and could be relegated by 0.002 points on PPG if the #Promote2 campaign is successful. An Ebbsfleet United fan argued “You cannot reward or punish for incomplete seasons. York City crying about possibly not going up. If the season had been completed, they may not have gone up at all, and likewise, Ebbsfleet or Maidenhead may not have got relegated. Ebbsfleet could possibly be relegated by 0.002 points!" The Ebbsfleet United fan continued to express how the clubs tireless efforts to complete a game against Stockport County to save them a wasted trip during storm Dennis could be detrimental to their league position; "The game went ahead, the only non-league game in Kent if I recall. Effectively, Ebbsfleet could go down for playing a game on a stormy weekend. But my first thought before all of this was to null and void, but that’s not happening.” Can the National League really relegate a club for trying to get a game played?
The initial proposal from the National League to cancel the National League South and North playoffs on the thought that the National League was the only division to be classed as 'elite sport' has since been proved to be a wrong judgement. Alan Mak, MP for Havant, wrote a letter to the league chairman Brian Barwick saying the government has "not expressed a view" if the league is considered 'elite sport' adding ""Elite athlete means a person who is an individual who derives a living from competing in a sport. If HWFC and the National League agree that HWFC's players meet this definition, the government is not intending to prevent National League South play-offs from taking place or HWFC from taking part."
Meanwhile York MP Rachael Maskell has written to the department of Culture, Media and Sport supporting the clubs promotion campaign. "They should follow the logical, sensible proposals put forward by York City to allow either play-offs, and if they cannot go ahead, to revert to promoting the top two. It's the only fair way forward."
The overall opinion of fans seems to be about protecting the integrity of the competition and most supporters seem to have the opinion on two up from each league being the fair way to do it or alternatively null and voiding the whole league. This situation isn't one that will disappear overnight and no matter the outcome there will be clubs and supporters who feel hard done by.
Weymouth fan “National League South play offs should happen but if not I’d be happy to see Havant go up.” Tonbridge Angels fan “Obviously it doesn’t matter to us. I think out of the three possible options I think playing the play offs is the best option. Just promoting Wealdstone and Havant isn’t right as numerous of times we see a team win against the odds in any league. The fact that Tonbridge had to win 2 playoff finals last season yet this year clubs just get given promotion I feel is unfair.” Weymouth fan “There must be more than one club relegated from step 1 if the whole league is to have credibility. Happy for Havant and York to be promoted, but would love a crack at the playoffs of course.” Chippenham Town fan “Promote Wealdstone and Havant from South and Kings Lynn and York and relegate the bottom four in National League, it’s just common sense.”
Kings Lynn fan “first choice would be to conclude the season on PPG and arrange playoffs. The FA or whoever should chip in for the cost of testing/wages. If that isn’t possible then the top two on PPG should go up, seems the least unfair option.”
Tonbridge Angels fan “Promote Wealdstone and Kings Lynn, relegate Chorley. Harsh on York but it is what it is.”
Slough Town fan “play offs if possible, if no playoffs then only top in each league on PPG goes up. Only way in my opinion.”