Five points, five bloody points. Some will look at the draw with Stevenage as an opportunity missed, but according to Oxblogger’s predictometer, the point and other results on Saturday served to maintain the points difference between us and the play-offs at the end of the season.
And that points difference is five points. Many Oxford fans will forever more wince at the mention of the word ‘five’. Five points deducted, five points off the play-offs. Five. Shudder.
Those five points are currently locked in a vault at Conference headquarters. The administration have revealed their findings from their internal review, and… it’s everyone elses fault.
What was the review about? Well, it wasn’t about giving points back. The club have already acknowledged that there was a material breach of the rules. They rightly avoided entering into a subjective debate over the relative moral value of that breach.
At first it seemed the league had done the right thing – a review would help address some of the evident concerns. By proactively addressing these concerns, credibility would be retained and enhanced. In short, this was a PR exercise.
To relieve the league of any responsibility, then to blame the clubs and the supporters’ trusts is a PR catastrophe for an already beleaguered administration.
There is clear evidence that the system doesn’t work – Crawley’s successful appeal, the high propensity of club’s falling foul of the rules, the evident process changes shortly after the deductions were handed out, the need for a review at all.
To claim that the system is, essentially, perfect, is beyond all reasonable comprehension. To save its position, the league needed to show some humility by playing back the challenges it faces. The increasing professionalism of the league it looks after, the scrutiny and pressure that creates, the bigger clubs, commercial pressures facing everyone. If they could then go onto commit to some kind of programme of modernization, then equilibrium would have gone some way to being restored.
But no, now the administrators have antagonized everyone. Which might mean little in the short term, but serves to put additional pressure on their decision making – the next breach will be scrutinized to death, the FA will take increasing interest, the clubs and media will get wind, the sponsors and TV will think twice about working with such an organisation. The Conference could be a really good product, decent competitive league and good prices… the administration are doing their darndest to screw it up.
None of which reduces the five points, of course.