Paul Hurst calls for more promotion spots to be introduced to the National League following Grimsby Town’s playoff final victory over Solihull Moors.
By Amos Murphy
The dust hadn’t even begun to settle on Grimsby Town’s victorious playoff final win and boss Paul Hurst was already calling for National League reform.
Swaggering into his post-match press conference, just moments after the Mariners had seen off Solihull Moors in a dramatic final at the London Stadium, Hurst urged the English Football League to introduce change.
On the issue of whether there should be three promotions from the National League, Hurst insisted: “I’ve said that all along. I said it last time and I’ll say it this time.
“It seems very odd how the leagues are different altogether. I don’t really understand that.”
Hurst referenced the format that allows at least three sides to earn promotion from all three EFL divisions, whereas only two teams from the National League are granted a place in the league above.
With experience managing in both non-league and the Football League, Hurst expressed his confusion at how imbalanced the divisions are:
“When I left Grimsby last time, I went from the league it was the hardest to get out of in League Two, to League One which is the hardest to stay in with four relegation spots.”
Pointing to the attention that has been placed on the National League this season, Hurst believes there has never been a more appropriate time to introduce structural reform:
“When you look at the attendances in the National League this season, there are a lot of big clubs.
“That doesn’t give you a divine right and history doesn’t give you a divine right, but I think it shows there are some very big clubs there who would more than hold their own in the EFL.”
Having been relegated from League Two with Grimsby at the end of last season, Hurst stuck around at Blundell Park, with the ambition to guide the Mariners back to the Football League.
Despite falling behind against Solihull Moors through Kyle Hudlin’s first-half opener, Grimsby fought back and levelled proceedings in the second period via John McAtee’s composed strike.
Just as they had done in the two rounds prior, Grimsby won the game in extra-time, with Jordan Maguire-Drew bundling home at the back-post.
It secured an immediate return to the Football League for Grimsby, while also confirming the Mariners as just the seventh team from 47 to earn promotion from the National League at the first time of asking.
Despite achieving the unlikely feat, Hurst is still adamant three up three down should be introduced, but recognises this is an issue for the EFL to decide upon.
In a recent interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, National League General Manager Mark Ives reiterated his position on the matter:
“We have made it clear three-up, three-down is something we'd like to pursue.
"It's a matter for the EFL & they have to have discussions with their clubs but is it something they are willing to have dialogue over? I think so.”
For a long time, the argument against the move was that League Two clubs would be unwilling to vote for more relegation spots, for fear of dropping out of the Football League for long periods of time.
Grimsby’s immediate return to the EFL demonstrates fluidity between non-league and the EFL is possible, with three up three down a logical step forward for both divisions.
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