EFL excludes Gateshead FC from National League play-offs over stadium tenure

The club were set to play in the National League play-offs with the hope of being promoted to the EFL in just two days.

Gateshead FC have been excluded from the National League play-offs after failing to secure a 10-year tenure at their stadium.

The club was set to play its first play-off fixture on Tuesday, with hopes of being promoted to the English Football League.

Now the EFL has announced that the club has not met the criteria to play in the league because it "has been unable to attain security of tenure to play matches at its stadium for a minimum of 10 seasons."

In a statement on its website the EFL said: "All National League Clubs are required to apply annually to the EFL should they wish to be eligible for promotion, which Gateshead did alongside other Clubs by the 30 November deadline.

"Working with the EFL, clubs then had until 1 March to ensure that all the relevant criteria of EFL Regulations were met.

"As Gateshead failed to meet the security of tenure requirement, the EFL rejected its application.

"The Club appealed the League's decision claiming that it was irrational or unreasonable, but that appeal has now been rejected after consideration by an independent arbitrator.

"As the EFL strongly believes in the principles of promotion and relegation it is therefore highly disappointing that appropriate solutions have not been put in place over the previous two-year period, as avoidable circumstances are preventing Gateshead from progressing up the pyramid even if the Club achieves success through sporting merit.

"The League hopes that Gateshead and the relevant stakeholders can address this matter so that the Club can meet the obligations of EFL membership and be eligible for promotion in future seasons."

Gateshead's planned eliminator against Solihull Moors on Tuesday, 23 April has now been cancelled. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees News

Gateshead Council have been seeking a private operator to run the Gateshead International Stadium amid cost-cutting measures.

Because of this, the authority was unable to secure Gateshead FC's use of the venue for the next 10 years.

The International Stadium has been home to Gateshead FC since they left Redheugh Park during the 1971-72 season.

A Statement from the Gateshead Football Club Board of Directors said: "Gateshead Football Club are extremely disappointed to find ourselves in the position as outlined in the statements released by the EFL and the National League.

"Rest assured we will continue to challenge both on their decisions, and we will endeavour to ensure that footballing matters are decided on the pitch.

"Therefore, our players and staff remain 100% focused on the task in hand, and we wish go on record to express our gratitude to the National League for supporting our challenge to the EFL.

"Due to the legality of this matter, no further comments will be made by Gateshead FC until appropriate."

On its website The National League said it was "extremely disappointed" in the decision by the EFL.

It added: "The club requested a 10-year security of tenure from Gateshead Council. This was refused.

"The National League wrote to the council in support of the application by the club highlighting the impact on the club, its supporters, and the local community if the security was not given.

"Unfortunately, the response received was not supportive of the club’s requirements and placed the club at risk of a refusal of membership to the EFL and therefore forfeiture of any right to participate in the play-offs.

"On 28 March 2024, following the deadline for licence applications to the EFL had passed, the Council offered options to the club. However, in the opinion of the EFL these options still did not satisfy their requirements."

Michael Lamb, Service Director, Gateshead Council said: "We continue to be supportive of Gateshead FC who we have a very good working relationship with.

"We have offered a licensing arrangement in line with the requirements of its current league, which allows for further negotiations if the club achieves promotion.

"However, we are currently working to appoint a partner operator for our leisure facilities - including Gateshead International Stadium.

"As we are not yet able to confirm how the stadium's operations will be managed in the longer term, it has been difficult to provide the 10-year security of tenure the league is seeking.

"We have offered several times to work with all parties to find a solution and we recently provided a letter which would give the league the assurances they were seeking, whilst at the same time protecting the interests of the council.

"The assurances included a 10 year agreement between the council and Gateshead Football Club, that includes a break clause in the agreement to ensure that any new operator is able to negotiate new terms with the club. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be enough for the English Football League.

"Whilst the announcement by the league is extremely regrettable and we understand the club's disappointment, our priority is to ensure that we can provide sustainable and accessible leisure services for all our communities.

"We remain committed to working with all interested parties to achieve a positive resolution and will continue to advocate for the success of Gateshead Football Club.”

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