County League is under major threat from FA, says SCFL acting chairman

The future of the Sussex County Football League is again under ‘major threat’ after being ‘dismembered via the back door’ by the Football Association.

That is according to the SCFL acting chairman Steve Nealgrove after the league were informed that both Rye and Crowborough would be removed from Division One and placed in the Kent League.

Both clubs are said to be fully against the move and County League officials are furious that no consultation process has taken place.

An emergency general meeting has been called at Horsham YMCA this Saturday where league bosses will outline their concerns to each club.

With both Peacehaven and Redhill promoted to the Ryman South, and no team relegated from above (Walton Casuals have been reprieved) it will leave the county league with 20 teams in Division 1, the minimum amount required to maintain Step 5 status.

And with Sidley’s future uncertain because of financial problems and a number of Division 1 clubs still not meeting the ground gradings, it again leaves the County League under real threat of collapse.

Last season the FA were all set to disband the County League to neighbouring leagues in Kent, Combined Counties and Wessex, before Peter Bellamy and County League chiefs launched a huge fight along with all of their clubs as well as MPs to overturn the decision after consultation.

But now the league are again gearing up for another battle for the league’s very survival yet again.

Mr Nealgrove said: “This puts the league under major threat once again. We are holding an emergency general meeting on Saturday at 2pm at Horsham YMCA where we will explain to all our clubs what is going on and our concerns.

“That once again we’ll be fighting off the threat of our league being dismembered via the back door.

“The SCFL and the two clubs involved have not been consulted so the FA have failed to follow their own due processes.”

The league were informed of the FA’s decision via email late last Wednesday (May 22).

They have already met with officials from both Crowborough and Rye, who are both against moving leagues, and all three parties are planning to take up their right to appeal.

In a statement published on the Crowborough Athletic club website, Crows Chairman Tony Bowen said: “On Thursday 23rd May the club received a communication from the FA’s Step 5/6 Review Group.

“The communication stated that the Review Group had decided that Crowborough Athletic FC and Rye United FC will be transferred to the Kent Premier football league at Step 5 for season 2013/2014.

“The decision came as a complete surprise to both clubs, the Sussex County FA and Sussex County Football League as no consultation had taken place prior to the FA’s communication on Thursday 23rd May.

“After an emergency meeting of the Crowborough Athletic FC Senior Committee on Friday 24th May, they unanimously rejected the FA Review Group decision and decided to immediately begin the process of preparing an appeal under the FA Disciplinary Appeals Procedure.

“This process is fully supported by the Sussex FA and Sussex County Football League.

“There are a series of meetings taking place in the coming days between all interested parties and the club website will be updated accordingly with relevant information, being the official source of information. We will work closely with Rye as we understand they also strongly reject the proposal.

“The whole club and particularly senior football management will continue to make plans for competing in the Sussex County Football League, Division 1 next season.

“Crowborough Athletic FC has been competing in Sussex since forming in 1894 and the committee is determined to ensure that this will continue for season 2013/14.”

On Tuesday, Rye United FC added their support for resistance to the FA’s planned change by tweeting on the club’s official feed: “Not just about Rye & Crows but the SCL’s whole future. Your club could be next for Wessex, CoCo or Kent!

“Many thanks to Karen Scott @KarenKes7 , Steve Nealgrove @Steve_N_Nelly and Dave Nessling for yesterday’s meet. United & Athletic we stand!”