BATTLE lines are being drawn after all 50 Sussex County League sides agreed to back the fight against the FA’s decision to move Rye and Crowborough into the Kent League.
Last week, acting County League chairman Steve Nealgrove accused the FA of trying to “dismember the County League via the back door”, believing the loss of two sides to a neighbouring league would weaken them and pose a real threat to their long-term survival.
On Saturday, the league held a meeting with all of its clubs at Horsham YMCA’s Gorings Mead and Mr Nealgrove was delighted with the response. He said: “It was very successful. Every club gave us their full support of the league lodging an appeal along with both Crowborough and Rye to stay in the league.”
All three appeals were sent off on Tuesday and will be heard on the same day at a date to be arranged, but expected to be within the next fortnight.
Mr Nealgrove stressed that under no circumstances would the league be folding, but promised to fight tooth and nail against the FA’s latest proposed changes to the SCFL.
He said: “What it does is puts us under an awful lot of strain by reducing the number of clubs we have because we don’t have many clubs coming into our league from above or below. There’s no way the league will be folding, hence us putting up such a battle.”
This week’s news that TD Shipley would be folding from Division 3 of the County League came as another big blow to the league’s stability. Barnham are merging with Wick in Division 2 and Haywards Heath are the only side promoted up to Division 2 on merit.
With just two sides entering Division 3 – Rustington relegated from Division 2 because of ground gradings (subject to AGM ratification) and East Sussex Champions Langley Wanderers promoted from below, it will leave only ten teams in Division 3 next season, two less than last season.
Rumours have circled that as a result Division 3 will fold, something strongly denied by SCFL bosses, who have emailed every Division 3 club to propose two alternatives. One is for clubs to play each other three times a season instead of just two, increasing the number of matches from 18 to 27, and the other is to introduce a supplementary cup in the latter part of the season if there is a shortfall in fixtures.
Mr Nealgrove stressed that the league would not be scrapping Division 3 altogether and expanding the remaining two leagues because the current structure of three leagues at Step Five, Six and Seven within one branch was the most fluent for promotions and relegations and was in the best interest of their clubs.
At Saturday’s meeting it was also agreed that the SCFL’s annual AGM would be pushed back from the scheduled June 18 date to take place when the future of both Crowborough and Rye’s proposed move was decided. This means the rather complicated issues of some club’s promotions and relegations will be delayed.
Mr Nealgrove meanwhile also confirmed that Division 1 outfit Sidley United were working hard with the league not to fold because of financial pressures.