Poole and Darlington are two sides both attempting to gain promotion to the National League from the National League South and National League North respectively. However today both sides found out news that they will not be eligible to compete in the playoffs, which both sides looked likely to finish in.
The decision has been made due to both sides not having 500 covered seats which sides need to have if they are to compete in the play offs. The requirement came about as a result of the change to the Ground Grading Rules in May 2016.
Poole Town looked in a very good situation to finish as one of the four sides in the play offs. They sat in 5th, the final play off place but had a nice 4 point gap over the side just outside the play offs, Hungerford. Darlington also sat 5th in their division but had a much tougher task, with two sides below them on goal difference. But it is all irrelevant now as both sides will not be allowed to participate should they make it.
The rules prior to May 2016 allowed temporary seating to be used for the play-offs as long as the club could show that it had obtained planning permission and had detailed plans to construct a permanent seated stand. Darlington have claimed that the change in the requirement for permanent covered seating was only brought to their Board’s attention in the past couple of months and that by the time the Board was fully aware of the requirement, it was not able to act because of the timescales involved and the lack of funds available.
Both Poole and Darlington have decided to appeal the decision, so it may not be all over for the sides if the decision is changed by the National League, however for now it looks as if both sides will not get the opportunity they deserve to compete in the playoffs if they are to maintain their position or finish higher.