Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Promotion to & Relegation from 'The Football League.'

The 2009/10 football season maybe barely a month old, but fans of Clubs up and down the country are probably already dreaming of a trip to Wembley, promotion to the Premier League, creating a major Cup upset e.t.c, but spare a thought for those Clubs in League Two who come the end of the season, will be battling for their lives just to keep their Football League status!

For much of the last century, the Football League was a distinct entity, a private members' club if you like. The reason was re-election.

Rather than a system of promotion & relegation that the four Football League divisions operated, any top non-league club hoping to become a member of the elite 92, had to wait for a current member to be 'kicked out.'

At the end of every season clubs in the top two divisions, 'Full Members' and four 'Associate Members' representing the bottom two divisions were presented with a ballot, comprising of the four clubs who finished at the foot of Division 4 (now League 2) and the names of a substantial number of non-league clubs, who were applying for League membership.
Each representative of an 'Associate Member' had to vote for the four clubs they wished to participate in the League the following season

A Football League club having to apply for re-election may have seen it as some form of ignominy, but for 50 years or so it was mostly nothing to worry about.
The system ensured that League membership remained relatively static, with non-league clubs having almost no chance of joining.

For some clubs it was an 'annual humiliation.' Several non-league clubs in particular, namely Nuneaton, Chelmsford & Cambridge City, routinely put themselves forward without success.

Only if a club applying for re-election were located in some tiny northern coastal town, meaning long awkward trips for other teams, and/or the size of their crowds was extremely poor, bearing in mind at the time that gate receipts were shared between clubs, were you in any danger of not being re-elected.

As a result Gateshead were replaced in 1960 by Peterborough, Barrow lost their league status to Hereford in 1972 & Wokingham (who had replaced another northern coastal town, New Brighton in 1951), were dropped in favour of the now defunct Wimbledon in 1977.

Other teams to lose their League status include Southport, who were replaced by Wigan in 1978, Bradford Park Avenue, who were replaced by Cambridge United in 1970, & are now ironically back playing non-league football themselves.

As it stands at the time of writing this piece, 7 out of the current top 10 positions in the non-league Conference division are occupied by former Football League clubs.

Finally in the late 1980's the League conceded that the 'closed shop' mentality they were running was indeed unfair. Therefore re-election was replaced initially by one-up, one down in 1987 (although it was on condition that the non-league Conference Champions were deemed as having stadium facilities of a League standard).

Since 2002-03 a change to a two-up, two-down system has been implemented. The bottom two teams in League 2 are replaced by the Conference Champions plus one other team. This is decided through a play-off system, made up of the Conference teams that finished 2nd down to 5th place.

Since 2002/03, none of the perpetual strugglers have slipped out of the League, with Hartlepool (re-elected 14 times), Crewe & Rochdale (ten each) all surviving & sometimes thriving!


amer said...

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I love your style of writing and your topics are well written and an interesting read.
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Chester said...

As a Chester City fan, I can relate to this blog, and I can tell you it's pretty heartbreaking leaving the League, knowing that we might not ever get back.

Nice blog.

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