National League clubs have voted to end the regular season at its current point, with promotion and relegation outcomes “under careful consideration”.
The league’s board had urged clubs in its three divisions to vote in favour of ending the regular season without further games because of coronavirus.
The league said there was a “clear majority of clubs in favour” from the almost 90% of responses returned.
Football in the fifth and sixth tiers was suspended on 16 March.
Clubs in the National League, National League North and National League South divisions that have not yet voted still have an opportunity to do so, the league’s board said, but it “would not change the outcome”.
A National League statement added: “In the knowledge that the ordinary resolution has passed, the League’s board has chosen to communicate the decision now and before the last few responses are received, which will not change the outcome, to enable clubs to make business decisions with greater clarity as soon as possible.
“The options concerning the sporting outcomes of the 2019-20 season remain under careful and timely consideration, and further updates will be given in due course.”
Two clubs are usually promoted from the fifth tier into League Two, with four clubs being relegated and replaced by the champions and play-off winners in each of the National League North and South divisions.
In March, leagues from the men’s seventh tier downwards in England were ended immediately and results expunged.
National League chief executive Michael Tattersall added: “At a time when the entire country is wrestling with the devastating impact of Covid-19, the cancellation of the remaining normal season matches brings a degree of certainty to our clubs coping with the business implications of the virus.”
Barrow director ‘strongly against voiding season’
Barrow were four points clear at the top of the National League when the season was halted, and director Levi Gill believes the decision to end the regular season is the right one – even though his side’s promotion to the English Football League now hangs in the balance.
The club’s nine remaining fixtures will now be scrapped, with clubs waiting to discover what options are given for ending the season as a whole.
“Taken in isolation, it is the right call,” Gill told BBC Sport.
The National League have said they will present options for how to finish the campaign but Gill says there has been no clarity over what, or how many, choices they are likely to be given.
“Obviously we are very strongly against voiding the season,” he said.
“But apart from that, it is impossible to know what to do without seeing the choices. It could be complete the table by points-per-game average, give final positions out on current standings or play-offs. I would prefer a straight ‘yes or no’ option but I don’t know if that is what we will get.”
The National League had hoped to have the whole situation concluded by the end of the month but Gill feels that deadline is “tight”.
He confirmed Barrow have already passed EFL inspections, although work to put a roof over the visitors’ section at their Holker Street stadium is now on hold.
“We had to take a gamble on paying for the work because it needed to be done if we did get promoted,” he said. “That is stopped now but we are committed to it.”
Barrow are aiming to return to the EFL after a 48-year absence after they were voted out in 1972 to make way for Hereford, despite only finishing third from bottom of the old Fourth Division.
Notts express ‘disappointment’ at vote outcome
Notts County, playing in non-league football for the first time in their 158-year history this season, were third in the table at the time of the suspension.
“We would like to place on record our disappointment that the season has been brought to a premature end,” said a statement from the Magpies’ board of directors.
“While we appreciate the views of other clubs and respect the overall outcome of this vote as a representation of opinion across the three divisions, our stance has always been that the National League should operate in tandem with the EFL due to the intrinsic link between the two leagues.
“We were therefore opposed to this vote being imposed – particularly as there was no clear indication of what the next steps would be in terms of deciding the conclusion of the season, including end-of-season play-offs and matters concerning promotion and relegation.”
Notts added that they have written to the National League with suggestions of “detailed, constructive and well-considered options for how we believe the league can be concluded” and players will continue to train remotely to “make sure we’re ready to resume our push for promotion if we’re given the opportunity we feel we and others deserve”.
Their statement concluded: “In the meantime, we look forward to hearing from the National League with regards to what the next round of voting will entail, with the continued hope that our fight for an immediate return to the EFL isn’t over.”
Meanwhile, York City are top of National League North by two points, although they have played two games more than second-placed King’s Lynn Town.
A club statement said: “Throughout the process, York City FC has put forward a strong case to see promotions honoured and will continue to do so until a decision is made.
“Ending the campaign sitting at the top of the league and having endeavoured to play as many games as possible during the season, when it comes to voting on the sporting outcomes of the 2019-2020 league results, we are confident that the league and other clubs will take this key aspect into account.”