FA scrap plans to dissolve Division One of the Sussex County League

VICTORY has been declared in the fight against the FA’s reorganisation of the Non-League after plans which would have seen Division One of the Sussex County League dissolved into neighbouring leagues were scrapped.

At an FA League Committee meeting held on Wednesday (May 9), members threw out proposals to reduce the number of Step 5 Leagues from 14 to 12 from the start of the 2013.14 season, deeming them ‘unworkable’.

Had the plans gone through, as was expected, the Sussex County Football League (SCFL) would have been one of the most affected leagues in the country, with its Step 5 league, Division One, disbanded and its teams split across the Kent League, the Combined Counties League and the Wessex League.

Fears were that the increased travel would have put a financial strain on many clubs, some of whom said they would have considered dropping down a league.

SCFL chairman Peter Bentley, one of those leading the fight from the start, declared: “This is brilliant news for all our clubs and I am absolutely delighted with the decision.

“Most importantly from our point of view, Divison One won’t now be broken up and although it may have to go up to 22 teams in the future that is not a problem.”

Mr Bentley has been championing a campaign against the reorganisation of Step 5 and 6 since the FA announced its plans last year. It has received backing from every club in the County League and every senior club in Sussex, as well as a number of MPs, and Mr Bentley said their support had been a major factor in the U-turn.

“There’s no doubt that was pivotal,” he said. “I’m absolutely convinced the letters written in by all our clubs, by every senior club in Sussex from Brighton & Hove down and letters written by MPs have all helped.

“There was a similar campaign from the United Counties league in the Midlands and from other areas from clubs who were unhappy. All in all there was a book about an inch thick with letters of opposition.”

Under plans that were accepted at the meeting, both the Ryman Premier and Ryman North and South leagues will all be increased to 24 teams from 2013/14. Mr Bentley said that would affect the number of promotions and relegations in the County League next season, but was a “small price to pay” compared to losing their top league.

From 2013/14 every one of the County League’s Division One clubs will have to meet the FA’s gradings, but with every club in Division One already being up to scratch at the moment Mr Bentley said this would not pose a problem.