With all the talk of the troubles at Crystal Palace, who are facing the threat of liquidation, what impact could their demise have on the Football League, specifically the shape of League One next season and beyond?
Like Town, Palace have twice been in administration. Firstly in 1998 which ended in 2000 and their current administration period which started earlier this season.
Palace had been given a deadline of 3pm today to agree the sale of the club and importantly the ground, to the CPFC 2010 Group of local businessmen. At the time of writing no news is available on whether the sale has succeeded.
The Regulations of the Football League explain what will happen if Palace, or any other club, have to resign from the Football League.
To start with, in the case of Palace, the season has finished. As a result all of Palace’s results have counted and all the three leagues decided. In this case Rule 12.2.3 applies which states:
12.2.3 during the period between the conclusion of the last Play Off Match and the start of the following Season, its playing record shall not be expunged but the number of relegation places from the Division in which a Club would have played but for its cessation of membership, shall be reduced by the number of Clubs ceasing to be members and, during that Season, the relevant Division shall operate with a reduced number of Clubs.
So the rules are clear. No team gets a reprieve. Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth and Peterborough all get to play Swindon in League One next season. The Championship would start with 23 teams in 2010/2011, but with only 2 relegation places. Although this does mean one team will have a bizarre free day every fixture.
It doesn’t stop here. The Football League will need to rearrange itself in time for 2011/2012. This is due to Rule 5.2, which states:
5.2 The First and Second Divisions shall, subject to the provisions of Regulation 11 (Cessation of Membership) each consist of 24 Clubs. The Third Division shall comprise the remainder of the Clubs then in membership of The League.
So as the Championship will only give League One 2 teams and both need to operate with a minimum of 24, an upward shift is needed.
In terms of League One, the normal 3 promotion places will be on offer to get to the Championship. Also the normal 4 relegation places remain between League One and League Two. However, 5 teams need to be promoted from League Two to fill the gap vacated by any cessation of membership.
As rule 5.2 doesn’t require 24 clubs in League Two there remains the possibility that it could continue to operate with only 23 teams, so no more 92, unless an extra promotion place from the Conference.
To see another football club in such dire financial difficulties is shocking for all football supporters. I hope that Crystal Palace find a secure and viable future in the Football League. Swindon have been close to liquidation in recent times so we all know how Eagles fans must be feeling at this time. So here’s hoping we play Palace in the Championship in 2011/2012!