County League clubs unite to stop FA changes - plus shake-up planned for Division Three

Action from Horsham YMCA v Sidley last season. Cash-straped Sidley are currently fighting for their survival
Action from Horsham YMCA v Sidley last season. Cash-straped Sidley are currently fighting for their survival

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 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 to launch an appeal along with both Crowborough and Rye.”

All three appeals were sent off to the FA on Tuesday this week 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 promising to fight tooth and nail against the FA’s latest proposed changes 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 sides coming into our league from above or below. But there’s no way the league will be folding.”

This week’s news that TD Shipley would be folding from Division Three of the County League came as another big blow to the league’s stability.

Barnham are merging with Wick in Division Two and Haywards Heath are the only side promoted to Division Two.

And with just two sides entering Division Three - Rustington, relegated from Division Two because of ground gradings (subject to AGM ratification) and East Sussex Champions Langley promoted from below, it leaves only ten teams in Division Three next season.

SCFL bosses strongly denied rumours that Division Three will be disolved into Division One and Two and have emailed every club in the division 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 play an extra cup competition later in the season.

Mr Nealgrove stressed that maintaining the three leagues at Step Five, Six and Seven was in the best interest of clubs.

At Saturday’s meeting it was also agreed that the SCFL’s annual AGM - where a number of proposed promotions and relegations are ratified - would be pushed back from the scheduled June 18 date to take place when the future of both Crowborough and Rye’s proposed move have been decided.