Ebbsfleet United today make the following statement regarding the end of the 2019/20 season and the division the club will compete in for the 2020/21 season.
Having regard to the wider interest of the National League, Ebbsfleet United have decided to accept the NL position and what that entails and will decline to proceed with the legal challenge process available to the club.
With the National League North and South play-offs being scheduled to commence this coming weekend, we wanted to update our supporters on the end of season outcomes and the league we expect to play in next season.
The decision to proceed with play-offs in the North and South divisions, combined with the decision by the league membership to decide the 2019/20 season finishing positions based on an unweighted points-per-game basis, means Ebbsfleet United will be relegated should play-offs proceed and be completed.
We are fully aware of the fine lines and fractions that have led to that result and have certainly tabled them on behalf of all players, staff and supporters, via the correct and proper channels.
As all our supporters will know, when the season was prematurely ended our club finished out of the relegation zone and as one of the top form teams in the league.
Nevertheless, an unweighted points-per-game system saw us moved down one place into the relegation positions by 0.002 of a point. This is the leanest mathematical calculation of any club in the UK to be relegated on this system. We are the only club to be sent into the relegation zone by points-per-game, and one of only three clubs – along with AFC Fylde and Chorley – to be relegated in the only division in the National League framework to retain relegation under the points-per-game season-end solution.
Perhaps most frustratingly for our club is the great effort and goodwill displayed in February to ensure our home match against the travelling Stockport County squad went ahead – despite extreme weather conditions, in the form of Storm Jorge, rendering the majority of matches to be postponed in the London region. Had this game not proceeded it would effectively have made the difference when the points-per-game system was calculated.
We believe in making every effort to work overtime and stage matches, when perhaps the easy option would have been to give up and declare an early postponement the night before.
We have taken a considerable amount of legal advice around the process and what options are available to us, and have made representations to the National League seeking answers and clarity around a number of concerns and issues. In short, we have made a strong case on behalf of the club and have raised and highlighted a number of points which have been heard by the National League.
It is fair to say we disagree with the National League and their legal advisors on some matters and processes. It is also the case that there is a clear legal pathway available to the club to pursue the fight against what we are sure many supporters view as an unfair, and very unlucky, outcome for our club. However, as with any legal challenge, we must make a judgement on the merits of such action and, at all times, whether we wish to continue pursuing it or not.
The decisions on finalising the season have been made under difficult conditions and have been without precedent. They have been made with an intent to find a solution for, and to please the vast majority of clubs wherever possible, and unfortunately for Ebbsfleet United we have fallen on the side of the small minority who are severely affected by the outcome.
To launch a legal challenge and arbitration when 12 fellow member clubs are planning for and hoping to compete in a play-off series, at great cost to them and the league, would be extremely disruptive, and of course would carry no guarantee of any outcome other than further weeks of delays and uncertainty.
We have, as noted, argued strongly our case to the National League through correct channels and we believe it now to be in everyone’s best interests to accept that, unfortunately for Ebbsfleet United, the right thing to do is accept our “relegation by formula” and push forward for a strong season in the National League South should play-offs proceed.
It is true that relegation will disappoint our supporters, and we are all extremely disappointed to arrive at this reality. However, in the context of what the nation has experienced in recent months we must also recognise our blessings of health and well-being. The club has been able to take care of our staff and players during the crisis and we have an excellent platform and positive outlook heading into the pre-season in preparation for a strong year ahead.
We have an exciting and fresh new structure and management team in place, and continue to work on putting together a strong squad.
Through no fault of our own we will find ourselves a league below where we felt we had deserved to be next season. However, with the continued support of our loyal fans, and a concerted effort to now confront next season with a positive and combined effort to rectify the outcome that has been handed us, we are confident of a bright and exciting 2020/21.