Harrogate ‘qualify for promotion’ to League Two, says managing director
Harrogate’s managing director Garry Plant believes his side should be promoted from the National League after League Two clubs voted to end the season.
The North Yorkshire side were second in the standings, four points adrift of leaders Barrow, when the National League announced the cancellation of all remaining regular league matches on April 22 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
League Two clubs voted on Friday and the final table could be decided on an unweighted points-per-game system, but crucially for Harrogate fourth-tier sides have asked the English Football League (EFL) for there to be no relegation.
That would potentially mean only Barrow coming up, because of Bury’s demise last summer, with the National League’s statement on April 22 declaring its “sporting outcomes” – including the play-offs – were “under careful consideration”.
However, Plant believes because Harrogate are currently in second place, a spot in League Two should be secured.
“We are in second place and we qualify for promotion,” he told the PA news agency.
“We are in second spot as the table stands and we have to wait and see what the EFL’s final decision is and we go from there.
“Harrogate Town wants to be promoted. That has always been the aspiration of this football club. It does seem to be entering the end game.”
If promotion is refused “the board of directors would have to consider what their position is”.
Considerable investment has been made at the club’s Wetherby Road ground, and attendances have increased from 200 a few years ago to more than 1,500.
Plant said: “Six years ago it was like Sunday league at Harrogate, now we have a new family stand being built and the capacity is up to 5,000 with 1,000 seated.
“It’s fantastic to see for the people of Harrogate. The town is excited about the club.”
Port Vale chair and co-owner Carol Shanahan believes she was acting in “the greater good” after voting to end the League Two season, despite her side being a point and a place adrift of the play-offs.
The EFL confirmed on Friday that fourth-tier outfits had “unanimously indicated a preferred direction of travel to curtail the campaign” as well as agreeing to a framework which would decide the standings, while League One clubs failed to reach an agreement.
Shanahan, though, thinks voting through the proposal was a necessary measure after considering the return-to-play protocols and attached costs of resuming the campaign.
“It wasn’t an easy thing to do. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Shanahan told BBC Radio 5 Live. “Then I had to do the awful thing of ringing the manager to tell him.
“Port Vale fans could look at it and ask: ‘Why on earth did Carol vote for this that meant we missed out?’. Well, it was for the greater good. I think it was the right thing to do.
“I felt I really wanted to finish the season. We’re eighth in the table and have every chance of getting into the play-offs. We had everything to play for.
“(But) being part of League Two I felt that the unity of League Two and the unity of the club we belong to, the needs of that was more important than the hurt Port Vale would feel.”
The EFL board must now consider the implications of the clubs’ position when it meets on Wednesday.
Forest Green chairman Dale Vince told the PA news agency on Friday his club had not wanted to end the season, felt the decision had been rushed and that to block demotion was “all kinds of wrong”.
He said: “If you’re going to apply a rule that says we’re going to freeze the league where it is, you’ve got to do it top and bottom. It’s all kinds of wrong on the National League.”
Stevenage were at the bottom of League Two when the campaign was suspended but even their owner Phil Wallace would prefer to secure their safety on the pitch.
He told BBC Sport: “We have 10 games to play and are three points behind, with a game in hand. Why should I think it was not possible to get out of it?
“The League Two clubs cannot decide this. We can only tell the EFL of their indicative position but that is the collective view.”