A PETITION opposing the FA’s plans to reorganise Step 5 of non-league has been put forward by the Sussex County FA and signed by all 20 of the Sussex County Football League’s Division 1 clubs.
Last month Sport Express outlined the FA’s proposals, which would see all the Sussex County League Division 1 clubs merge into the three neighbouring leagues at the start of the 2013/14 season.
At the time Peter Bentley, Sussex County FA (SCFA) chairman, voiced strong fears that the extra travel some clubs would incur could have a damaging effect on them.
And on Wednesday last week (February 1), representatives from the SCFA met at their Lancing headquarters and agreed to fight the move. “We agreed as a council to rubber stamp our plans to try to stop the FA’s changes to Step 5,” said Mr Bentley.
“All 20 of the Division 1 clubs were then sent a very simple circular and every one of them has signed it to say they want to remain in the Sussex County FA.
“That will be sent off to the the FA and a few other places shortly.”
There are currently 14 leagues at Step 5, including Division 1 of the SCFL, but the FA want to cut this number down to 12, so there are two leagues feeding into each of the six leagues above at Step 4.
According to Mr Bentley the biggest changes nationally will be seen in the Sussex County League and the United Counties League in the Midlands, who are also deeply opposed to the changes, he said.
Under the proposals teams like Peacehaven will see their travel greatly increased while the likes of Pagham, Selsey and Chichester City – who would join the Evostik Southern League in Hampshire – would be playing games on the Isle of Wight.
Mr Bentley says some Division 1 clubs would opt to drop down to Step 6 rather then incur these crippling extra costs, which could well have a knock on effect forcing clubs in Division 2 to be relegated into Division 3.
And he added that he was adamant the changes were totally unnecessary, labelling the plans as “the biggest case of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut” he had ever seen.
The FA is currently carrying out its final consultations on its National League System – Step 5/6 review and insist no final decision has yet been made. With the vast majority of Step 5 leagues in favour of the changes it does however look set to be pushed through, although Mr Bentley has vowed to battle hard.
He said: “I truly hope it’s not a futile fight, we’ll keep going right until the last day.
“I would like to think we have the possibility of overturning the decision, I need to believe that because otherwise I won’t be doing right by my clubs.”
The FA say its review of Step 6 will also be carried out in the coming months. Only one of the County League’s 36 Saturday fixtures took place because of the weekend’s snow, a reserve game between Newhaven and Southwick (see a match report on that game on page 69).
Despite more disruption expected, Mr Bentley does not expect a backlog of fixtures at the end of the season.
He said: “I don’t think it will be a problem, the difficult is only likely to come in Division 3 where it’s a 16-team league and only four sides have floodlights.
“One or two clubs might have a problem but as long as this cold weather doesn’t last longer than a month I think we’ll be all right.