When the FA announced there was to be a re-alignment of leagues and teams across the Non-League pyramid a few months ago, the first thoughts were probably a cross between excitement and concern of where some clubs would end up being placed.
For some clubs, the opportunity to face less travelling and an increase in local derbies was an instant appeal and much welcomed. For those sitting on the border of where leagues would split, slight concern that having performed in one league for so long distances might now become vaster and increased.
You can the reasoning behind not just the want for a full pyramid 1-2-4-8-16, but also to reduce the cost and time of travelling and increase the number of fans attending games and therefore better atmosphere and support for players to perform in front of.
Non-league support is growing at a fast rate with lots becoming disillusioned with the game at the top level and with clubs fully embracing ways to promote their club and facilities through social media outlets, now is possibly the best time to capitalise on the movement and begin to shape the game for the future.
With so much money in the game than there has ever been but very little filtering down to the grassroots level, the game needs to be protected so it survives. We know we have a unique structure to our game and for it to continue the FA must look after their members and give the game every chance to grow even more.
There will however always be those who lose out when change happens. The FA don’t do themselves any favours when it comes to ‘listening’ to club’s reasons behind staying where they are. Ultimately, I know not everyone can be pleased, but the time it takes to hear an appeal and then to release no reason for rejection at the time to back things up does leave them open to criticism from those they should be protecting, encouraging or in the very least supporting as time goes on.
There is an issue with deadlines which can be appreciated and as previously noted in this blog of season’s never ending, clubs do need maximum time to prepare themselves for a new season especially when heading into an unknown division and new challenges, why should they have an added disadvantage before they’ve even begun?
As seen today, the release of Step 7 divisions has caused controversy down in Sussex where previously reprieved Division One teams Southwick and Oakwood appear to have been relegated but without any word given from the FA to either club or the Southern Combination League which they compete in. With most clubs starting pre-season training in 3 weeks’ time, how can clubs attract players not knowing which division they should be in?
When I was involved in junior football nearly 28 years ago (and I’m not that old!) the FA then consisted of a generation that needed to be replaced and had done ‘their time’, now it appears repetition is here, some change is required before those fantastic volunteers walk away exasperated at those above unable to deal with things in a swift and timely manner.