Conference hit as League veto two-up plan

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Clubs from the Football Conference may call for an independent ombudsman to examine promotion and relegation after chairmen of the 72 Football League clubs yesterday rejected a proposal for two-up and two-down from the Conference at their annual general meeting in Chester.

The Stevenage Borough chairman, Phil Wallace, had presented the Conference plan, backed by the FA and the Government, to the League on Friday, which included substantially increased "parachute payments" of £500,000 to clubs dropping out of the League.

Wallace said yesterday that the Conference clubs would now hold an emergency general meeting at Rushden & Diamonds Football Club on Thursday, when they would decide on their next course of action, which could include calling for arbitration. "I am devastated by this decision," Wallace said. "I don't know what we can do to make them say yes. We shall talk to the FA and the Government, but it seems we shall have to seek an independent decision."

The Football League chief executive, David Burns, said: "We have asked the Conference and the Football Association to present a financial proposal that will reassure our clubs and allow them to take a step they are genuinely keen to take."

But Wallace rejected a further financial package being brought forward, believing the current £500,000 offer was more than fair. "It's not the FA's job to fund promotion and relegation from the Football League," he said. "We have the support of everyone we have talked to ­ the FA, the minister of sport ­ but this means another year wasted."

Meanwhile, a proposal to expel Chesterfield from the League was withdrawn after it was decided that the nine-point deduction handed out to the Spireites for financial irregularities was sufficient punishment.

The new Watford manager, Gianluca Vialli, has admitted he still feels "betrayed" after the manner in which he left Chelsea. The Italian was sacked after taking just six points from the first five Premiership matches of last season. "I think you've got to forget first and then, if you can, you've got to forgive," said Vialli. "But it's not easy sometimes to turn the other cheek. So, I've actually had to break a few friendships because I felt betrayed."

Vialli, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday, added: "Mine hasn't been an easy career ­ I've had my problems but I've always managed to overcome them and I'm very proud of that. I've had a few football disappointments. But the things that disappointed me the most were when people I thought were my friends betrayed me... in football, I am talking about.

"I am talking about recent events. It's something that is probably easier when it happens when you are a manager rather than a player."