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Fair Play for the National Game is a campaign that was instigated by fans of non-League sides to put pressure on the authorities to increase the promotion from the Conference to the Football League from one club to two clubs. Campaigners believe that the top Conference sides could more than hold their own in the Third Division and it's only fair that the relegation/promotion system is brought closer to one that exists within the Football League. Wycombe are often cited as the prime example of what progress can be made by Club's promoted from the Conference and it was apt that Wycombe would be the Club that tabled the proposal for discussion at the Football League's AGM in June 2001.

The campaign was only launched in May but they received support and publicity through a number of national outlets. Sports Minister at the time, Kate Hoey, told the Football Supporter Magazine "I have spent time visiting and talking to Conference and non league clubs and administrators and fully support the Conference’s campaign to increase the number of clubs promoted each year to the Third Division of the Football League"

Issues affecting the vote rest mainly around the 'parachute' payment to the extra relegated club. At the moment the relegated club receives £150,000 to compensate for loss of TV rights money and a similar amount would have to guaranteed for any extra club shown the door from the Football League. The Conference are hoping that the FA will stump up the cash. David Burns, Chief Executive of the Football League said before the meeting "My view remains unaltered that this is a change that is in the best interests of English football and I am, therefore, equally clear that the FA should use its significant resources to support the game at grass-roots level, in the Conference, by funding this change."

Since this report was originally published campaigner's for a 'two-up, two-down' system between the Football League and the Conference were left disappointed after the proposal was voted out by the vast majority of League Chairman. Initial reports indicated that only Wycombe had voted in favour but it was later confirmed that newly promoted Rusheden plus fellow Division Two side, Colchester United, also showed their support. Not surprisingly it was money that forced the issue and the fear for some clubs of going bankrupt if relegated. Sadly, recently promoted ex-Conference clubs Macclesfield, Kidderminster and Cheltenham Town all voted against helping out their former associates.

Football League chief executive David Burns said in a press statement after the AGM "I share the concerns of the clubs that these proposals did not fully address the financial effects of losing league status." He added "We have asked the Conference and the Football Association to present a financial proposal that will reassure our clubs and allow them to take a step they are genuinely keen to take....We are confident that this will ultimately lead to a successful resolution of this issue."

You can read more about the campaign at

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External Links...
Fair Play website
The Independent
21st May 2001
Graham Kelly - Promoting the cause for the Conference


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