If you listened to the TalkSport interview I put up in my last blog (and if you haven’t, then why not?) you would have heard me talking about the Conference being the toughest League in England to get promoted from. Since that interview I have had quite a few people asking me whether I meant this or whether I was just saying it for effect. Well, in a world exclusive I can officially say that I 100 per cent, undoubtedly meant it. And I will tell you why right now!
The Conference is littered with fallen giants and former greats of the game struggling to rekindle their past glories. Teams such as Luton Town, Lincoln City and Grimsby Town have all been established Football League clubs, but are all now fighting it out to get back to the Promised Land. When Luton Town were relegated down to the Conference at the end of the 2008-2009 season, you would have had to be either crazy or a time traveller to predict that they would still be down there now. But here they are, currently sitting in 8th and facing the prospect of another season as a Non-League club.
The strength of the teams now in the Conference has led to many, myself included, calling for an increase in teams promoted back into the Football League. The fact that there is currently only two teams promoted into League Two, while four teams are promoted out of League Two into League One is a joke. However, the chances of this changing are exceptionally small due to the bizarre and quite frankly ridiculous voting system in place. If the Conference is to be granted an extra promotion place, then the majority of teams in League Two have to agree on letting this happen, meaning there would be one more relegation spot in that League. Any team who believe they have even the slightest chance of relegation will naturally, and understandably, vote against this.
I think this is a real shame, as by opening up the Leagues and allowing more teams out of the Conference, it may begin to change some people’s opinions of the lower League game. To emphasise how strong the Non-League game is I have an absolutely staggering statistic for you. Are you ready? Since the play-offs were introduced to the Conference at the end of the 2002-2003 season, of the 20 teams promoted to the Football League, only two have been relegated since. Only two teams out of 20! If that doesn’t show you how well Non-League teams can adapt to the Football League then nothing will. Steve Burr, talking on the Non-League show, summed up many peoples incorrect views perfectly: ‘One or two clubs higher up tend to think we play a different game in Non-League.’
The current system is simply unfair and stinks of those running the Football League just ignoring the supposed ‘little clubs’ at this level. The Conference is the ONLY League in England where just one team gets promoted automatically, yet four teams get relegated. So without trying too sound to much like an activist attempting to change the world, it really is time for change in the system.
With virtually every club in the Conference Premier now training full-time and the standard higher than ever, there has never been a better time for the Football League to throw open the door and let the Non-League parade enter. Because if they don’t, the big teams down here will continue to bang on that door until they break it down. Better still, forget the Conference Premier, from now on let’s just refer to it as League 3.