Message from Altrincham FC joint-chairman Bill Waterson:
Last Wednesday night, it appeared any hope of pressing home our promotion claims had been dashed after we received word from the National League that there would be no play-offs in the North or South Divisions.
In a communication from the League, we learned how the Department of Culture Media and Sport had determined that whilst the National Division counted as elite sport, the North and South Divisions did not. As a consequence, they said, play-offs could not take place at our level.
This was a crushing blow to our National Division ambitions after we had argued forcibly for play-offs to proceed and made it clear we would willingly meet the considerable expense - likely to be in the region of £50,000 - of meeting all the requirements for participating in them.
However, I’m delighted to be able to report that, following the ensuing outcry over a ruling that caused dismay up and down the country, there seems to have been a softening of the League’s initial stance. As I write, there is a possibility there will be play-offs in our division, and we will be taking part. I stress, at this stage, it is only a possibility.
Let me try to explain.
As the news sank in towards the end of last week that, in all probability, there would be champions for North and South based on PPG (points per game) but no second promotion slot, action plans started to be formulated.
It would appear, from reports received, that both York City and Havant & Waterlooville lobbied their local Conservative MPs to raise the question with the DCMS of whether it was right to exclude clubs at our level from the elite sport category, given all the players and management are clearly paid employees and some are even full-time.
The pressure tactics would seem to have had the desired effect. The draft resolution from last week was finally issued to clubs last night, and it talks about PPG and the possibility of play-offs ‘subject to Government guidance’.
So, the possibility is back, at least.
The tantalising prospect of being able to challenge for promotion and have something tangible to show for our sterling efforts in this truncated season is there. But, and it’s a big but, it’s all down to how clubs vote and how that vote is interpreted by the League and, perhaps, an even higher authority.
In simple terms, a ‘yes’ vote for PPG being applied and a final table being formulated as a result should mean an automatic green light for the play-offs happening, because the League’s regulations state that play-offs are the only way of settling the second promotion spot. Vote for the season ending that way, rather than being deemed null and void, and the play-offs have to go ahead.
Except… There is one concern, and it is, of course, the reference to Government and legal advice and the obvious inference therein. That could yet scupper matters and is what I meant by ‘an even higher authority.’ We must wait and see and, of course, hope.
On behalf of the board, I apologise for all the confusion and uncertainty, but it’s fair to say it has been out of our control, and we will always endeavour to keep you fully informed of any development that affects our club.
There should be clarity soon. Rest assured, we will continue to press for the play-offs to be held, and we will cast our vote accordingly. The outcome should be known imminently, and we will let you know at the earliest opportunity.