Local MPs join the fight against FA changes to the Non-League

THE COUNTY-WIDE campaign to stop the FA’s proposed changes to Non-League football is gathering pace, with a number of local MPs lending their backing.

Norman Baker, the MP for Lewes, and Simon Kirby, the MP for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven have come out in support, while meetings have been held with Nicholas Soames, the MP for Mid Sussex.

The campaign has also received written support from every senior club in the county, from Brighton & Hove down to Crawley, Horsham and Lewes as the Sussex County Football League (SCFL) try to stop nationwide changes which will have a huge bearing on them.

Under the FA’s proposals, which are yet to be rubber stamped, the 14 leagues at Step 5 of the Non-League pyramid will be condensed down to 12 leagues, meaning there will be two leagues each to feed the six Step 4 leagues nationwide.

The SCFL is heading the campaign after all its Division 1 clubs voted against the move. It will be one of the leagues most affected by the changes, due to take effect for the start of the 2013/14 season, as it will see Division 1 disbanded and all 20 teams split into three neighbouring leagues, meaning greater travel for many clubs.

The Sussex County FA is helping the SCFL by collating the submitted letters of opposition, and plans to sent them to the FA by the end of the week, ahead of an upcoming review committee meeting.

Chief executive Ken Benham said he had been in contact with FA chief executive David Bernstein, where he voiced his concerns, and said the support of local MPs was a major boost.

He said: “Norman Baker met with Ringmer Football Club and has raised the issue with both Jeremy Hunt (secretary of state for culture, media and sport) and David Bernstein. Simon Kirby has also met with two County League clubs and has expressed his concerns with Mr Bernstein, while Nicholas Soames has listened to the concerns of Peter Bentley (SCFL chairman) and representatives of the Mid Sussex League.

“As a County FA it is our duty to support our leagues and all our clubs and act in their best interest.”

The FA will need the plans rubber stamped by a league committee and then at a full FA Council, but with any changes needed to be in place at the start of next season they are expected to be pushed through quickly.

Still SCFL chairman Peter Bentley says they won’t give up the fight while there is a chance of success.

He said: ““We have had written support from all the senior clubs in Sussex, from Brighton to Crawley, Lewes, Horsham and all the way down and their support has been great.

“I very much hope it is not as futile as it seems. If you analyse it, in the last ten years I think only three teams at Step 5 in the whole county have voluntarily made a sideways step to another Step 5 league, and under these proposals 70 will move in one go. We can only fight our corner to the best of our ability and we will continue to do that as long as we can.