PLANS to scrap the top division of the Sussex County League have been shelved.
The Football Association wanted to reduce the number of divisions at Step 5 level of the non-league pyramid from 14 to 12. The two leagues under threat were County League division one and the United Counties League premier division. But following strong objections from across the non-league game, the FA have decided not to implement the changes.
A statement released on Wednesday from Mike Applebuy, described as ‘League and Clubs Manager on Behalf of the Leagues Committe’, said: “At a meeting of the Football Association Leagues Committee held today at Wembley Stadium, the Final Report from the Step 5/6 Review Group, containing a number of recommendations was considered.
“As a result of these meetings the Review Group, taking into account both the feedback from the discussions and correspondence received, complied their Final Report and the following recommendations were agreed by the Leagues Committee today: that the process of reducing Step 5 leagues from 14 to 12 was deemed unworkable and the initial suggestion withdrawn.”
Mr Appleby’s statement also revealed that, if clubs at Step 5 level wished to continue to compete at that level then, “ALL clubs must meet the National Ground Grading Category F in FULL by 31 March, 2013.
“Clubs that do not meet these requirements WILL be relegated to an appropriate Step 6 division/competition.”
The recommendations also have an impact on the divisions below the one currently played in by Lewes (Ryman Premier), with both the Divisions 1 North ans South (Step 4) increasing in numbers to 24. Currently there are 22 teams playing in each of those two divisions.
Mr Appleby’s statemenet read: “With effect from Season 2013/2014 and in order to create 14 relegation places at Step 4, the Isthmian (Ryman) League Division 1 North and Division 1 South (Step 4) be increased to 24 clubs with each relegating three clubs to Step 5, subject to any club issues arising during or after the completion of the playing season. It was noted that the Northern Premier and Southern Leagues have no desire to increase to 24 clubs for their Step 4 divisions.
“This will mean that a number of additional clubs will be given the opportunity to be promoted from Step 5 to Step 4 for season 2013/2014, the process is to be agreed.”
Lewes will face another long trip to Lowestoft next season after the Suffolk outfit lost to a late extra time goal against AFC Hornchurch in the play-off to see who joined Billericay Town in promotion to the Blue Square Bet South.
Teams coming up to join Lewes in Ryman Premier next season (subject to any change due to events elsewhere in non-league football during the summer) are Sussex rivals Bognor Regis Town, who beat Dulwich Hamlet in the Ryman 1 South play-off on Monday, and Enfield Town, who triumphed over Needham Market in the Ryman 1 North Final.