Stephen Cleeve: We've drawn the short straw on 'final day'

King's Lynn Town players huddle in the middle before kick-off against Dover

King's Lynn Town players huddle in the middle before kick-off against Dover earlier in the season. Dover are a team who perhaps should have been given the final weekend 'off' - Credit: Ian Burt

It is the responsibility of every football league to ensure parity and fairness for their member clubs.  

The National League have had all sorts of accusations levelled at them over recent years and, oddly, it remains the only major league in England that you are not awarded costs against if you are successful in a court case against them.

This makes it a high barrier to scale, as even if you are proved correct in a court of law, you will still need to pay for the privilege. Recently, Wrexham took the National League on, when they objected to the league wanting to extend the season by two weeks. Wrexham won the battle, but would not have received any costs, although it would probably have been pocket change to their star-studded owners in any case.

King’s Lynn Town are facing a far worse dilemma. It is good practice that all leagues finish on the same date and kick off at the same time so that no team has an advantage over another. Our league this season is a team short due to the demise of Macclesfield and it is King’s Lynn Town which has drawn the short straw and have no game on the last day of the season. This gives those clubs battling relegation a huge and a very unfair advantage from our perspective.

We need to finish fourth from bottom to stay up; so the clubs around us on the last day of the season may well decide to set up their teams differently to how they may have done had King’s Lynn been playing on the same day. They will know before the game just what they need to do and if a point is all that is needed, they could set up in a super defensive mode, which may not be how they would have set up had our position not already been known to them. It is like playing poker, but with some players having the opportunity to see everyone else’s cards.

At the start of the season, Dover had a 12-point deduction. Given their playing budget (which is known to the league as you must submit it before the start of the season) the league could had reasonably guessed that Dover were the most likely team to be relegated and therefore they would make the obvious candidate to be 'playing' Macclesfield on the last day. The league has had plenty of time as the season unfolded to make a fixture change, but now they are in the awkward situation of not being able to make a change unless it does not affect the bottom or top end of the table. 

No clubs receive money for their final league position at our level, so no one would be financially disadvantaged by any change, and I am surprised that the board have not tried to do the right thing much earlier and move a few fixtures around.

Most Read

I did speak with the CEO of the league, Mark Ives, last week and to his credit he was sympathetic to our situation and agreed with my analysis. Mark’s view was that if I came up with a solution, he promised to look at it. I set everyone at the club onto it, but there is no obvious solution at this late stage of the season.

We could possibly move the Woking date, but their last game of the season is against Chesterfield, Eastleigh play Grimsby on the last day and Wealdstone travel to Aldershot - all games that affect both ends of the table.

I do think that action should have been taken by the league much earlier in the interests of fairness, and although a legal challenge remains an option, it would have been better for everyone if we could have all kicked off at the same time and sorted it out on the football pitch rather than in the courts.

Today we meet Yeovil at The Walks in a match that could well have a direct bearing on which league we ply our trade in next season. Our lads have brought down the deficit down from 17 points to just three and I have never seen such a huge turn-around in any league, ever, and our players and management have shown tremendous character to put themselves in a situation where they have control over their own destiny. It was a cracking night under the lights on Tuesday which saw Bromley dispatched 1-0 and another day to remember beckons this afternoon.

Next season we are putting in a new BOSE sound system and a new video screen to give our sponsors real presence inside the ground and I am delighted that our four shirt sponsors - Charmed Interiors, Barsbys, @salon and Collect Soccer.com - have all signed up for next season at the same rate as this season, irrespective of our league status. They are joined by Ultimate Fan, who are releasing a series of NFT Managers to support their fantasy football game; one of which will feature on our shirt sleeves. Along with Kappa’s support it brings the club its biggest kit sponsorship deal yet and given how difficult the season has been I am delighted in the faith shown by the sponsors in the club.

Now all we need is for the county to get behind us this afternoon so we can make the last game of the season an irrelevancy.