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Dartford FC co-chairman Steve Irving on the revamped National League play-offs

By Steve Tervet

Dartford co-chairman Steve Irving says the new National League South play-offs are bad for football and could hurt clubs financially.

Six teams will battle for the second promotion spot this season across five one-legged ties.

Clubs finishing second and third receive a bye through the first round and home advantage in the semi-final against the winners of fourth versus seventh and fifth versus sixth.

Dartford lost to Chelmsford over two legs in the play-offs last season Picture: Andy Jones
Dartford lost to Chelmsford over two legs in the play-offs last season Picture: Andy Jones

Last season ended in farce when ground grading issues meant neither Poole or Hungerford could take part.

Hampton, who finished seventh, played Ebbsfleet in the semi-finals having finished five places and 27 points below them.

The new proposals were voted in at the National League annual meeting but Mr Irving said: "We weren’t in favour. As a board, straight away, we were against the move to extend it for a variety of reasons.

"I don’t think it’s good for football in general. For some clubs, it gives them an additional chance of getting into that play-off spot but we were against it.

"We canvassed the fans and, on Facebook, Twitter and the website, they were against it as well. That may be because we think we’re good enough to finish top or certainly in the old play-off spots but how much further can you go?

"We had trouble with the play-offs this year where the sides that did finish in the play-off places, for ground reasons, they had to go down to seventh.

"What happens if, for ground reasons, you have to go further? Do you go down to eighth, ninth and 10th?

"It reduces income (for teams finishing second and third) because they’ve gone down the route of just having a single game instead of the semi-finals where you shared income between the two games.

Dartford co-chairman Steve Irving Picture: Andy Payton
Dartford co-chairman Steve Irving Picture: Andy Payton

"From a financial point of view, it could cost more if you end up in a play-off spot.

"If we were to finish second or third, we would get byes in that first round but financially I think it’s poorer."

Winning the league would take those complications out of the equation and Mr Irving believes they can do it.

Bookmakers have Darts joint-favourites with Chelmsford.

Mr Irving said: "We showed consistency throughout the season and the fact Tony (Burman) re-signed 12 players a week after the season was fantastic.

"Tony’s been quite honest in the press that we must be up there as one of the favourites.

"The likes of Havant and Hampton are probably going to be up there but I don’t think it’s unfair to hope that, given a good start, it will be us and Chelmsford fighting for top spot."

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