Smoke, Mirrors and the North-South Divide

The non-League play offs can be found, all in one place at http://www.1790.co.uk/Playoffs_2010.htm

From the Football Conference National Division, three teams are relegated – Grays Athletic, Ebbsfleet United and Forest Green Rovers. The fourth relegation place is for the folded Chester City – any replacement club will not be in the Conference. All three of the clubs heading for the drop appear to be South, rather than North, but FGR are near the border line.

Two clubs will be promoted from each of the Conference’s Northern and Southern sections, and as it currently stands, these divisions will lose two teams each in relegation. Vauxhall Motors (who are based near Ellesmere Port) and Harrogate Town from the North, Weston-super-Mare and Weymouth from the South. The third team to drop from the North is Farsley, who dropped out in mid-season, while in the South, Worcester City have earned a reprieve by having the best record of clubs in the relegation zone.

The six news clubs are

Northern Premier – Guisley and Bradford Park Avenue or Boston United – both to Conference North

Isthmian – Dartford and Boreham Wood or Kingstonian – both to Conference South

Southern – Farnborough and Nuneaton Town or Chippenham Town – Farnborough to Conference South, Nuneaton to North, or Chippenham to South.

So the most unbalanced situation is that Chippenham win, the Southern section would then be due to take on 7 teams, while only four go out, and hence three would need to transfer to the North – these would be Forest Green, probably Worcester (who are believed not to be too worried about a transfer) plus a further club which would be on of Bath City, Braintree or St. Albans City

However, it does not stop here.

Grays Athletic. It is strongly expected that Grays, who have lost tenancy of their own ground, will voluntarily accept relegation to the Isthmian League, rather than take up their place in Conference South. If these reports are correct, then Vauhall Motors will be reprieved from relegation, and one less transfer from the South to North will be required.

Appendix E. This is the rule that makes the Conference stricter on clubs falling into administration than other leagues. It demands that clubs going into administration exit said administration before the AGM, and that any CVA allows for 100% repayment of all debts. Both Salisbury City (National) and Northwich Victoria (North) could well be in breach of these rules and both face possible expulsion from the league. In Salisbury’s case, a lesser punishment of relegation is possible, but unlikely.

If anything happens to Salisbury, then Forest Green will not be relegated. If Salisbury take their place in the Southern section, that is the end of it, but otherwise Harrogate Town are next in line to be reprieved from relegation after Vauxhall Motors. If Northwich are forced out, then a Northern section team should escape relegation, but in the extreme position, where all three of Grays, Salisbury and Northwich leaving the league, only Weymouth would still be relegated.

Incidentally, I am fairly sure that Weymouth themselves have used a CVA to escape debts this season, but they have not been deducted 10 points, (I think they did not go into administration first). This might still place them in breach of appendix E, but is not likely to be tested as they finished bottom of their division

 Meanwhile a poster on the Forest Green forum, suggested seven ways they could be saved.

1. Blue Square North/South play off winner’s ground deemed not up to standard.
2. Darlington deemed too financially unstable and suffer the same fate as Boston.
3. Histon go bust
4. Kettering fail to sort out their stadium problem.
5. Other club randomly goes bust.
6. Other club decides to voluntarily relegate itself Canvey Island style.
7. Chester’s expunged results are re-added.

Number 1 is no-go, teams do not enter the play-offs if their grounds are not up to standard, and I have been told that Darlington these days are close to stable. Number 6 is likely to happen with Grays, but this does not help FGR, and number 7 is a no-go.

That leaves Histon (named) or another random club (unnamed) going bust, or Kettering’s stadium lease falling foul of Conference administration. I have heard suggestions that the unnamed club could be Stockport, if they fall off the football map before the AGMs (something I am not expecting), then one less team will be relegated from the Football League, but also Forest Green could escape as it is unlikely that a new club could join the Conference National Division, (Conference North is possible).

I have a suspicion that Kettering will be allowed to carry on, with the ground question hanging over them for a while yet, and I believe Forest Green’s best hope of avoiding the drop lies with the notorious Appendix E, and the fate of Salisbury