League Two looks certain to have only one relegation place this season after EFL clubs rejected a bid to reinstate Bury.

A clubs' meeting today agreed a "preferred direction of travel" on how to return the League to 72 clubs next season after Bury were expelled.

It was agreed in principle that only one club rather than the usual two would be relegated from Carlisle United's division to the National League at the end of this campaign.

That proposal will be put to clubs at a general meeting.

It means an attempt to return Bury to the EFL as a League Two club next season appears to have been thwarted.

A campaign had been launched to include the Shakers in the fourth tier under new ownership, following their recent removal from the League after a financial crisis.

In a statement, the EFL said it had considered the proposal, but "following in-depth discussions, it became clear that the proposal did not have the necessary support and that EFL clubs favoured extending the existing principle of a reduction in relegation across all divisions as a means of returning to 72 clubs now and for the future."

It had already been confirmed that League One would remain with 23 clubs and three relegation places, rather than the usual four, for this season after Bury's removal.

Dennie Jevans, the EFL's executive chair, said: "While we are saddened that Bury FC is no longer part of the EFL, the board’s difficult decision to withdraw membership was only taken after every opportunity to find a resolution was exhausted.

"Since then, in recognition of the efforts made on behalf of the club, the EFL has engaged with supporters’ groups, shared their submissions with our members and debated at length the issues raised.

“Following the discussion today, clubs have established that the preferred direction of travel is to reduce relegation from League Two as a means of returning to 72 clubs. The clubs felt that, in a difficult situation, this approach maintains fairness for all members and upholds the principle of the football pyramid.”

Today's clubs' meeting was attended by Carlisle United's chief executive Nigel Clibbens, with Blues co-owner John Nixon also present in his role as League Two representative on the EFL board. It is not yet known what United's particular stance was on the Bury issue.

The Blues' supporters trust, though, have today supported the League's decision.

In a statement, CUOSC - who have two directors on United's boards - said: "CUOSC empathise totally with supporters of Bury FC after their sad expulsion from the EFL. The community of Bury cannot be held responsible for the plight of their proud club.

"However we have to support the decision of EFL clubs today to confirm their expulsion and resist the temptation of allowing them to compete in League 2 from next season.

"Other clubs who have suffered similar misfortune such as Aldershot, Maidstone and Hereford have had to start well down the non-league pyramid and it would be wrong to create a precedent whereby a club can break EFL rules and still be allowed to stay in the EFL, especially after they had missed a whole season without competing.

"We wish all supporters of Bury well and hope to see them competing again in the EFL in the near future."

The meeting also saw clubs give their endorsement to former Premier League and Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry as the EFL's new chairman. That is set to be ratified at a general meeting.