Gateshead’s new owners have pledged to bounce back from relegation and make next season one to remember after they demoted into the National League North.
The club lost an appeal against sanctions placed upon them by the League, as they were punished for a number of breaches of financial regulations throughout last season.
A Heed contingent containing directors Neil Pinkerton and Trevor Clark and former Rochdale chairman Chris Dunphy attended a hearing at Wembley on Wednesday afternoon as part of the appeal process.
Among those sanctions were a nine-point deduction from last season’s points total, a £3,500 fine and the denial of a licence to compete in the league next season.
The outcome of the hearing was officially confirmed at the league’s AGM on Saturday and the Heed will now be relegated into the National League North, with Aldershot Town reinstated into non-league’s top tier.
Oxford City will now return to the National League South – after initially being moved into the North division.
A Gateshead club statement confirmed that they will remain as a full-time, professional outfit next season and urged the club’s supporters to get behind them in their efforts to return to the National League next season.
The statement read: “After such an impressive National League campaign on the field during the 2018/19 season, we are obviously hugely disappointed to have to accept relegation from the National League.
“However, we understand that the integrity of the competition is paramount and therefore fully accept demotion to the National League North for the 2019/20 season and acknowledge the actions of the League and Football Association, who have remained supportive and sympathetic to our cause throughout.
“Following this decision, our plans as a football club will remain unchanged and we will head into the new National League North season as a full-time professional outfit.
“As we head into this new era, we do so enthusiastically and with a willingness to succeed, and expect to make a number of exciting announcements in the coming days.
“All we ask now is for everyone to keep up the hard work and continue to get behind the club so that we can collectively make next season one to remember.”
In positive news, however, off-field preparations are well underway with Gateshead Council confirming that the club have agreed a ten-year lease on the International Stadium and plans are underway to clear debts owed to a number of creditors.
A Gateshead Council spokesperson said: “We have agreed a new ten-year licence for the use of the facilities at Gateshead International Stadium.
“The Council looks forward to working with Gateshead FC’s new owners to help sustain the club’s future and National League football status at Gateshead International Stadium.”
Gateshead will now face local derbies against the likes of Blyth Spartans, Spennymoor Town and Darlington in the National League North – as well as an eye-catching fixture against a York City side managed by former Heed manager Steve Watson
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The club’s former General Manager Alisha Henry will be reinstated into the role and a number of new directors and shareholders will be confirmed over the coming days.
Former Rochdale directors Chris Dunphy and Bill Goodwin will step back from their involvement after helping the club’s supporters claim the ownership and providing assistance during the appeal process.
Gateshead Soul Supporters Association chairman Bernard McWilliams paid tribute to the duo and issued a rallying call to the Heed Army and the people of Gateshead to get behind the club in its time of need.
McWilliams told The Echo: “Obviously, in an ideal world, we would still be a National League club.
“We have been put in this position because of the actions of other people.
“We have to thank Chris Dunphy and Bill Goodwin for their help – we couldn’t have got this far and got our club back without their support and guidance.
“But now it’s time to move on – this is a fresh start for everyone.
“The Gateshead Soul Supporters Association are fully behind this new era for our football club.
“It’s time for Gateshead to get behind its club and build a stronger, more sustainable club that can make the town proud.
“There is great pride that supporters have helped save this club, and now we start the road back to where we want to be.
“It’s time for us to come together and put our club back on the road back to where the likes of Graham Wood helped us reach.”
All focus turns towards on-field matters now as Gateshead look to take the first steps back towards non-league’s top flight.
Of last season’s squad, only defender Jon Mellish and forward Cameron Salkeld has found new clubs after they completed moves to Carlisle United and Greenock Morton respectively.
Despite their relegation, Gateshead will now press on with their attempts to secure the future of some members of the squad that helped them surpass all expectations and end last season safely clear of the National League relegation zone.