Macclesfield Town will remain in the English Football League despite a two-point deduction for breaches of regulations over non-payment of wages.
A deduction of three points or more by an independent panel would have seen the Silkmen drop below Stevenage and be relegated into the National League.
The decision leaves Macclesfield 23rd in League Two after the application of the points-per-game formula agreed by clubs earlier this month.
They have also been fined £20,000.
As well as being ordered to cover payment of the legal costs related to the latest hearing, the Silkmen have been given an additional four-point penalty, but that is suspended and carried forward to the 2020-21 season.
A Macclesfield statement said: “We would like to express our gratitude to the independent arbitration panel for their unquestionable diligence, in reaching what we deem to be a fair and unbiased conclusion.”
The latest punishment relates to late payment of wages for March and it is the third time Macclesfield have been deducted points during the 2019-20 campaign.
- December 2019: A 10-point deduction, with four suspended, for non-payment of salaries and failing to fulfil a fixture against Crewe. In March, this was reduced to a seven-point penalty with three suspended after Macclesfield appealed. It meant the club were deducted four points with immediate effect.
- May 2020: A seven-point deduction for failing to play a match against Plymouth and non-payment of wages, including the suspended three points from the first case being applied to the second punishment. That took the total deduction for the season to 11 points. A further two-point deduction was suspended.
- June 2020: That two-point deduction was activated by the latest ruling – taking the season’s total deduction to 13 points.
Stevenage’s only hope of a reprieve now is if the National League is unable to assure the EFL Board that their 2020-21 season is able to go ahead.
Discussions are ongoing to confirm that the relegated club from League Two has somewhere to play next season.
Tough month for bottom two
It has been an anxious 18-day wait for Macclesfield and Stevenage since the EFL announced the latest misconduct charge against the Silkmen.
On 9 June, the decision was taken to end the League Two season, but preserve promotion and relegation, effectively ending any hope that both could retain their EFL status.
The EFL said, however, that “due to ongoing disciplinary matters, the final placings cannot yet be confirmed”.
Boro chairman Phil Wallace told BBC Radio 5 Live on the same day that “there should be consequences” for Macclesfield, although he admitted there was an “element of culpability” for his club as their poor results had left them bottom of the table.
A statement issued on behalf of Macclesfield’s players accused the EFL of “trying their best” to throw them out of the league.
And two days later the players said their mental health had been “disregarded” while they waited to learn their fate.
“We feel like our own mental health has been disregarded at every turn and this has manifested itself in respect of the fact that many of our players and staff have had to battle and continue to battle, with tangible and often debilitating symptoms of mental illness,” their statement added.
On 17 June, Macclesfield had a winding up petition over unpaid tax adjourned for the 11th time by the High Court,
And following the panel’s ruling there is still plenty of work for the club to do moving forward.
They must deliver a “professionally prepared business plan to the EFL, seeking to demonstrate sustainable financial resources and management to be put in place for next season and beyond” by 31 July.