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Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
In the latest edition of what has long since become an ongoing saga, the annual Football Conference summer crisis seems likely to loom large on the horizon with the confirmation that ten Blue Square Premier clubs are appealing the decision to expunge the record of Chester City to the Football Association following the club’s expulsion from the league last month. It might seem odd that these ten clubs are appealing what seems to be the only sensible way to deal with the fall-out from the club’s collapse, but the truth of the matter is that any sense of “justice” that may be emanating from these ten clubs has, in all honesty, many of the hallmarks of being about their own interests rather than being fair in any way.
There is, it has to be said, some degree of obfuscation regarding the rules concerning what happens to a league should a club go to the wall in the middle of this season. This, thankfully, is because such circumstances are so very rare. On the overwhelming majority of cases that this has happened before, however, the offending club’s record has been wiped from the record. It’s what happened when Accrington Stanley folded in February 1962, when Newport County folded (whilst in what is now known as the Blue Square Premier) in February 1989 and when Aldershot left the Football League in March 1992. There is pretty clear precedent for the Football Conference’s decision to follow suit in the case of Chester City.
The only decision which contradicts this was the decision taken in 2005, after Spennymoor United were expelled from the Unibond League Premier Division for failing to complete fixtures. The club were expelled from the league on the 24th of April 2005, but five clubs appealed the decision (again all clubs that benefitted from the decision being altered), stating that the meeting didn’t have quorum. The Football Association stepped in and found in favour of the five clubs, awarding three points to all clubs that still had matches to play against Spennymoor. Two clubs that had objected to the decision, Farsley Celtic and Burscough, threatened legal action over it, but the FA’s decision stood. Unsurprisingly, it met with enormous criticism, the biggest being that clubs were awarded points for matches that they hadn’t even played. This is presumably the outcome that these ten clubs are hoping for now.
The Blue Square Premier in 2010 is an idiosyncratic beast. It is dotted by a number of clubs of that believe that they are “too big” for their league and that, more often that not in tandem with their supporters, seem to talk about it with little more than contempt. And in this spirit of contempt, ten clubs have signed a statement appealing the decision to expunge Chester’s record, preferring instead to award three points to everyone that has yet to play them this season and citing Spennymoor as precedent. Let’s have a look at the statement that has been released, then:
The strength of feeling within the clubs that have appealed is that the decision to expunge points so late in the season was not the right way of dealing with this situation. We don’t think that it was fair or reasonable when the Conference as a whole is considered. By the time Chester were expelled, 80 per cent of the playing season had passed and we believe it would have been fairer to all to have awarded teams three points for the unplayed games, a solution the FA has previously implemented. This way all events that happened on the field of play, whether they be points gained or lost, bookings, injuries, bonus payments, goals scored etc all count, which is as it should be. We do not believe it fair that points and the record of goals scored are expunged, yet bookings incurred in those games remain in force and count towards match bans.
The doublespeak at play here is staggering. It seems inconceivable that these nine clubs (and that’s not a misprint – more on that shortly) seriously believe that it is “fair or reasonable when the Conference as a whole is considered” that teams should be awarded points for matches that they didn’t play or that these bonus points shouldn’t make any difference in terms of goal difference. Is it fair to Gateshead, who played both of their matches against Chester before the middle of October, when Chester still had a full squad, whilst fellow strugglers Barrow would, under this proposal, pick up six points without even kicking a ball because they hadn’t played Chester at the time that Chester were expelled?
Actually, Barrow make an interesting example of the doublespeak at play here. Quite asides from the fact that they were, as many of you will be aware, the first club to get their fingers burnt by Stephen Vaughan, who left them in liquidation and tried to sign over the ownership of their Holker Street ground into his own name without even getting the approval of his fellow board members (something that was only resolved when a court ordered that ownership of the ground be returned to the club), they were listed as being amongst the ten clubs that were supporting the proposal, but the truth of the matter is that they had done nothing of the sort. In fact, their chairman Brian Keen – to the enormous credit of both him and his club – put out a public statement on the subject, which may raise eyebrows over whether there are even as many as ten clubs supporting this proposal:
I was contacted confidentially in midweek by an unnamed Chairman, asking us to join nine other clubs in appealing the Conference’s decision to expunge Chester’s results. I replied, “We at Barrow, want what’s fairest for everyone not just a few clubs”, and I asked for the alternative proposal to be put to me in writing so we could decide if there was merit to appeal. I have still not received this and have hence never agreed to [be] part of the appeal.
In addition to this, those appealing also seem to have got their sums somewhat mixed up. They claim in their statement that, “80 per cent of the playing season had passed”, but this is patently untrue. At the time of Chester’s expulsion, the club had played twenty-eight of its scheduled forty-six matches, which is just short of 61% of its matches. It wouldn’t suit the argument of those supporting the appeal to have to point out that eighteen of Chester’s matches – almost 40% – would go unplayed but with points being awarded to teams that hadn’t even kicked a football if the proposal somehow did sneak through. This statement, however, is at best misleading and at worst an outright lie.
There is no “perfect” solution over this matter. The fact of the matter is that Chester City should not have been allowed to start the season. However, the Blue Square Premier season will finish with twenty-three clubs having played forty-four matches against each other. It is not “fair” that twenty-eight unnecessary matches were played in that league this season, but it is now in the past and this cannot be undone. For every club that will benefit under this absurd proposal, another will lose out. It is to be hoped that common sense will prevail but, this being non-league football, there are no guarantees that this will happen. At worst, the promotion and relegation issues surrounding this season’s Blue Square Premier could even drag into the summer.
It has been mentioned in some quarters that clubs are concerned over win bonuses that were paid out to players for matches that will now have their results scrubbed from the records, but the clubs that hosted Chester City this season will not, we assume, be giving the gate receipts for these matches back to those supporters that turned out for them, and seeking to exploit the situation for their own ends only really strips those concerned of any moral high ground when it comes to whatever strange decisions that the Football Conference may make in the future. Looking in from the outside, it can only be concluded that only a “tinpot” club would seek to gain an advantage from such a set of circumstances.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
You don’t name the other nine clubs involved in this appeal – do we know who they are?
Also, as a supporter of an ex-league club and one who “talk(s) about (the league) with little more than contempt” I would point out that many of your excellent articles have shown the BSP to be run in a farcical manner – perhaps that is why we treat it with such contempt ..?
Gary, the clubs listed on the appeal (and this is according to the Twitter feed of the Mansfield Town chairman, as well as the Altrincham FC website) are Stevenage, York City, Tamworth, Kidderminster, Crawley, Rushden, Oxford, Cambridge, Mansfield and *cough* Barrow. This list was also reported on the front page of Sunday’s NLP.
Phew, glad we aren’t listed amongst the bunch of chancers … it has to be said, nothing would surprise me with our club at the moment!
The Football League should take some responsibility here – they forced the BSP to accept Chester at the start of the season when BSP rules clearly stated that Chester should have joined a lower league.
Oxford and Stevenage are obviously behind this, the chance to cement the title via a stitch-up is clearly more than they could resist. Sad. The fact that the statement contains a glaring factual inaccuracy (80% versus 60%) and that they are ignoring fairness and precedent speaks for itself.
Some clubs being shown up here for the two-bob, classless outfits that they really are – yes, Stevenage Borough, I’m thinking particularly of YOU.
Utterly appalling behaviour by these chairmen, thank goodness I’m not a fan of one of these clubs, I’d be ashamed.
A fair solution would be to dock the “naughty nine” 10 points each for this frivolous appeal and wasting everyones time.
The Football League did not force the Conference to accept Chester City.
The Board of the Football Conference decided of its own free will to exercise its discretion to admit Chester, I assume that it thought that its members wanted a 46 game season rather than a 44 game season. The Board took the chance that Chester might fold mid-way through the season.
The reasons for Chester’s admission to the BSP are irrelevant as to what should happen when it leaves.
As I understand it, the rules of the Conference gave the Board power to expunge the points already played for, or let them stand and award points for unplayed matches.
Let me make it clear that I agree with the author of the article when he says in this instant case the expunging of points is the only sensible way to deal with the matter. But I think that the rules should be altered to take the decision away from the Board and/or the member clubs as to expunge or not, and be replaced with a rule that says that expunging points is the norm unless an independent FA tribunal determines that the expunging of points would produce unfairness and/or undermine the integrity of the competition.
I am not sure what the complaint of the member clubs who are appealing is; whether it is that the Board took the decision to expunge points, without considering the alternative, or whether the member clubs took the decision to expunge the points without being given the oppotunity to vote on the alternative by the Board. Whatever it is, going forward those with an interest in the outcome should not vote on the expunging of points and the matter should be dealt with by an independent body.
[…] City Here's another interesting article. It is about the expunging of Chester's results: The Chester City Aftermath: Self-Serving In The Blue Square Premier | Twohundredpercent __________________ Sack the […]
“The Football League did not force the Conference to accept Chester City.
The Board of the Football Conference decided of its own free will to exercise its discretion to admit Chester, I assume that it thought that its members wanted a 46 game season rather than a 44 game season. The Board took the chance that Chester might fold mid-way through the season.”
Yet again Ron you show that you live in La-La land, weren’t paying attention last summer or are just plain ignorant.
Woking would have happily made up the 24 if asked just as happened before when Boston were relegated out of the League and placed in Conference North because they were still in administration.
I was paying attention last summer.
Chester City’s place in the BSP was assured until the CVA which it had entered into was revoked by the Court on 29 July 2009. The new season was due to start on 8 August, all fixtures had been arranged for Woking in the BSS.
In 2007 Boston’s CVA was adjudged by the Conference at its AGM in June to have violated conference rules on the payment of football creditors, the Conference resolved to demote Boston to the Conference North and allow Altrincham to remain in the Conference National.
Why it should be said that the Football League should bully the Board of the Conference to accept Chester City at the expense of Woking, yet have not intervened in 2007 to assist Boston to the detriment of Alty, quite frankly,is beyond understanding.
By complete coincidence, the 9 clubs who believe that reinstating points gained & awarding 3 points for games unplayed is the ‘fairest’ way to ALL BSP clubs…….just happen to be ones who will all gain 6 points from the proposal ! Who’d have thought it.
Kettering and Barrow both would benefit to the tune of 6 points and have both stayed clear of this. The clubs in question should be ashamed of themselves…….if not for the appeal, then for the blatant lies about the percentage of games played. Big time charlies who don’t think they should be here.
It’s bad enough that Ipstone bores the pants off everyone on the 606 website, now he’s turned up here as well! Ron could you please start your own website (how about http://www.ilovethefa&footballleague.com?) where you could post all of your interminable ‘love notes’ to the FA Blazers without bothering us normal supporters?
Fleetwood are doing the same thing in the Blue Square North after Farsley left the League.
Their Chief Exec actually admitted in the NLP that they were only appealing because Southport (my Club) had lost a game to Farsley so therefore “gained” 3 points on them.
He said in the same article that he didn’t actually know under what grounds they were appealing but that they would find one!!!
[…] 27. The Chester City Aftermath: Meanwhile, the Football Conference was getting itself tied up in knots over what to do with its league arrangements once Chester had been expelled. […]