Stevenage chairman questions EFL integrity over plans

Stevenage chairman Phil Wallace (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Stevenage chairman Phil Wallace (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo) - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Stevenage chairman Phil Wallace questioned the integrity of the English Football League over plans to impose promotion and relegation in a truncated season.

League Two clubs voted to end the 2019/20 campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Stevenage sitting at the foot of the table, but with no relegation taking place.

However, the EFL Board subsequently voiced their belief that promotion and relegation should remain in place, claiming it is ‘integral to the integrity of the pyramid from the Premier League down to the National League’.

Wallace challenged that view, sayign: “I’m struggling to understand thot choice of words as I can’t see any integrity in applying an artificial formula, especially when the FA have already ruled there will be no promotion and relegation below the National League.

“I don’t see any integrity in arbitrarily forcing relegation on any club that has every reasonable chance of avoiding it by playing, but is denied the opportunity to do so.

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“At Stevenage we of course have a self-interest to declare, but nevertheless we have always been strongly in favour of a resolution that is ethical and fair and is consistent with sporting values and principles.

“There is absolutely no integrity whatsoever in using a mathematical formula to expel a club from the EFL. That is unjust and wholly wrong. There is absolutely no integrity in allowing teams to play to win promotion, but not allowing teams in the same league to play to avoid relegation.

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“There is no integrity in the EFL Board ignoring the overwhelming vote by League Two clubs that told them they didn’t want to see any expulsion from the EFL by a points per game formula.”

As for how the matter might be resolved, with the National League having ended their season and still to decide what happens next in their own competition, Wallace has his own ideas.

He added: “As the rules stand, we should play it or void it. We can introduce a rule change for PPG for promotion and play-offs, I have no problem with that but it’s wholly wrong if that artificial formula is then used to relegate a club that has a reasonable chance of surviving by playing. That is a completely different, and unacceptable, step to take.

“There is a simple solution with integrity – bring more teams into the EFL from the National League to increase the product and deliver what should have happened long ago.

“A long time ago, as vice-chairman of the Conference, I fought relentlessly, along with our Board, for two up two down. We finally achieved that in 2003, with a view to moving to three up three down within a reasonable timeframe. But 17 years on, it has still not materialised. So perhaps now is the time to use this turmoil to deliver more fluidity between the EFL and National League with 3U3D.

“Since the National League season wasn’t completed in the way it was intended, one option is to leave League Two as it is, with no relegation, and promote one club from the NL this season instead of two, to bring the EFL back to 72 teams, but with three up-three down established and in place for next season. No lawsuits, no clubs bankrupted and something created for the National League that appears to be impossible to achieve.

“There is no financial penalty for any League Two club with this option either, as the budgeted relegation savings from League Two this season can be applied to the third relegated team. Funding was always the main problem to three up-three down, in that there wasn’t any. If we don’t relegate this season, there will be around £2million of EFL relegation savings over the next two seasons to make three up-three down happen.

“If the National League would agree, I believe this could be an option for clubs to consider and vote upon as a solution to the bottom of the EFL.”

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