County League Division 1 saved as FA scrap restructing plan

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THE FA scrapped their plans of non-league reorganisation last week in what has been seen as a huge victory for the Sussex County Football League.

Proposed plans by The FA saw them wanting to reduce the number of leagues at Step 5 of the ladder from 14 to 12 at the start of the 2013-14 season – meaning Division 1 of the SCFL would have been disbanded.

The move was met by uproar from clubs and the league’s committee as they voted unanimously to block it back in February, and at a meeting last Wednesday (May 9), FA league committee members threw out their proposals deeming them “unworkable”.

Under the plans, the SCFL was one of the most affected leagues in the country with Division 1 disbanded and its teams split across the Kent League, the Combined Counties League and the Wessex League, meaning a huge increase in travel time and costs.

The decision comes as a dramatic U-turn, as, despite the Sussex league and clubs all opposing the changes, they were expected to be pushed through and officials felt it would, ultimately, end up in the demise of the whole league.

SCFL vice-chairman Steve Nealgrove said: “It’s not just a victory for the SCFL but for Step 5 throughout the country. While it was expected our league and CCL would be most affected, in the end The FA reverted, realising the league and clubs didn’t want it. With the MP’s lobbying, etc; it’s all helped and as a result we are where we are.

“As we’ve always said, it doesn’t take a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Obviously, they’ve listened to what we’ve said and taken it on board. We’re very pleased for the league and our clubs.”

A statement released by the league’s and clubs’ manager Mike Appleby said, after a meeting at Wembley Stadium, the league committee agreed: “The process of reducing Step 5 leagues from 14 to 12 was deemed unworkable and the initial suggestion withdrawn”.

Plans will now see the Ryman Premier Division and North and South increased to 24 teams from 2013-14 and three relegated from each. This may have an effect on promotions and relegations in the SCFL next season. The FA have also said by March 31, 2013, all Division 1 clubs must meet a grade F ground grading or be relegated.