Do you get the feeling we’re getting hung out to dry by the EFL and National League? The independent probe into Macclesfield Town‘s most recent failure to pay players is now done and dusted. It all but seals our fate, which is fair enough. Yet, putting it out at 9pm on Friday night? And, as is so often the case, there’s a bit of a devil in the details. And still we can’t say without any doubt whatsoever which league we’ll be in next season.
So, what is that devil? Well, according to the club, they must prove they have the cash to start next season by 31 July. That bit doesn’t seem to make it into the EFL statement. But what if they can’t? Are we on standby for a reprieve? Will the next League Two term start one club short? It’s almost certain that we’ll be back in non-league next season. It’s just that we’re sure the gaffer would like to be able to prepare one way or another.
No-one is going to tell you that we’ve been anything less than rubbish this season. It ain’t a simple question of promotion and relegation. We’ve said it before – we still had 10 games left to try and save ourselves. And, yet, we can’t play them. All the while, promotion playoffs take place to see who goes up from League Two – and replace us from the National League. Something about “integrity”, we think.
EFL waiting for matters to take their own course?
Our ma once told us that, if we couldn’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Then again, she once told us that carrots make you see in the dark. Take these things with a pinch of salt. The EFL don’t exactly seem all that rushed about making a call one way or the other. They dragged their heels with Bury until circumstances took matters out of their hands. Are they doing the same now? Feels like it. And we’re caught up in it.
It seems that just enough points have been deducted to avoid relegating Macclesfield – helped, of course, by our failure to get anywhere near enough points ourselves. But what happens on 31 July? Either they believe the Silkmen can survive into the new season or they don’t. What happens then? The club starts the season and the problems start again? The courts take the unlikely decision to shut ’em down in September? Or maybe it’ll all be fine.
Whichever route it takes, are the EFL in the driving seat?
Maybe it’s ‘cos they’re too busy looking up at the Premier League with doe-eyed affection. It’s unrequited lads, sorry about that. Is the hope that, by sticking with relegation, the top flight won’t look down on the leagues below any more than it does anyway? If the EFL choose not to relegate to the Conference, maybe the Premier League will decide not to relegate to the EFL. That’s why someone has to go down this season – right?
Except that’s still not set in stone, either. There’s this vague, uncertain idea of us needing a competition to be relegated to. And that’s where the National League come in…
Integrity – National League-style
Fine wines. Malt whiskeys. Our editor. Some things do have a habit of getting better over time. But we don’t include the running of the National League in that. We don’t remember it being particularly good when we left a decade ago. Turns out it hasn’t improved much. Much like the EFL, the National League are mad keen to send two sides up because, otherwise, sending only one might set a precedent that the EFL wants to stick with.
Such was their focus on promotion to the League that all other matters of promotion and relegation were patched together. And don’t get us started on Barnet.
If the Bees do go up, we reckon they should become the poster boys for the integrity of football. This is a team that were sitting in 11th when the action ended. Unweighted PPG pushed them above Stockport County into the last playoff place. The Bees did have four games in hand to make up the four-point gap to the playoff places. Those games in hand are partly a problem of their own doing; matches postponed all over the shop earlier this year.
And yet the havoc it wrought on their fixture list has somehow played into their hands.
The hopes of starting in September
You must admire the ambition of the National League. It’s sure that it can start the brand-new season in September:
The National League has told clubs they are working towards a September start for the 2020/21 season.
This target start date applies to both Steps 1 & 2. pic.twitter.com/bqwdJNOMqn
— Ollie Bayliss (@Ollie_Bayliss) June 11, 2020
But the FA says no season will start if fans can’t attend the games. And, of course, that’s a real issue. Without fans, there is no income. Without any income, there will be no Boro’ for us to support. That’s what PW said. This obviously rests on the hope the rubbish Covid-19 lurgy is running its course and will be much weaker come the end of the summer. If there’s a second wave, however, that’s all thrown into chaos.
Some of the talk floating around is that, at first, grounds restrict capacity to 10-20% in the aim of maintaining social distancing. Well, first, we’re an advocate of cutting 2m down to 1m. Second, building a big new North Stand might play into our hands on that front. If that new stand has increased our capacity. We never thought to ask, to be honest. The fact is that all plans are resting on hopes – and that’s not a sound business case.
Promotion and relegation to the Premier League has a huge financial impact – much more so than between the Football League and the National League. But the reason why, in the grand scheme of things, it now exposes us to so much risk is because we have no say in our own future – and relegation is likely to mean much more than playing a division lower. Jobs are at stake, futures at risk and livelihoods under threat.
We should undoubtedly pay some price for being truly dreadful on the pitch this term. That doesn’t mean catching us in the crossfire as both the EFL and National League seek to and ring-fence their interests; leaving us in limbo as we move towards the 2020-1 season – however and whenever it starts. We’d imagine the EFL will get the assurances they need about the new National League campaign. Whether they’re fulfilled? Who knows…