FA warned: Non-league shake up must be fair

Southern Combination League chairman Steve Nealgrove has warned the FA: Any reorganisation of non-league divisions has to be fair and just for all.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 12:30 pm
Pagham are one of many top SCFL clubs who will watch with interest if the FA presses ahead with a non-league restructure / Picture: Roger Smith

He spoke out after the FA revealed it might press ahead with a shake-up of the pyramid’s steps four (Isthmian League south-east division), five (SCFL premier) and six (SCFL division one).

There are no details yet on how it will be worked out but it is something footballer’s rulers have been keen to do for a year or two.

In fact the FA has declined to answer a series of questions we have tried to put to the organisation about who might be affected and whether some teams might find themselves promoted this summer.

All the FA has said on the possible rejig is: “It has been decided that, subject to FA Council’s decision regarding the curtailment of the season at steps 3 to 6, both committees will revisit discussions around a potential restructure at steps 4-6 of the NLS, which was previously agreed and has been on hold since the 2019-20 season.

“A further update on this will be provided in due course.”

The statement has sparked talk that some teams at step six or five could be promoted even though we have not had anything like a full season, something that concerns Nealgrove.

He said the shake-up would probably involve sideways movement across divisions for some sides but said anything more should be questioned.

He said “A restructure based on tables after only about 30 per cent of fixtures have been played seems unfair.

“If you’re, say, sixth or seventh at this stage, you’re not necessarily going to be anywhere near it after 75 or 100 per cent.

“We’re keen to see how a restructure would work but it has to be fair and just.”

There has been talk of an extra step four division and of levelling up in numbers of clubs in divisions at all steps.

Meanwhile Nealgrove said the SCFL were not surprised at last week’s statement from the FA that the season for step three to six divisions was being ‘curtailed’. Around 75 per cent of clubs polled agreed it was the best option.

Nealgrove said: “We were looking ever decreasing circles of pitch availability, but we’re hopeful of normal timetable for next season.”