Sussex clubs fight FA over league changes

A PETITION opposing the FA’s plans to reorganise step five of non-league football has been signed by all 20 of the Sussex League’s division-one clubs.

As reported last month, the FA’s proposals will see Sussex League division-one clubs merge into the three neighbouring leagues at the start of the 2013-14 season.

At the time Sussex League and Sussex FA chairman Peter Bentley voiced strong fears the extra travel some would incur could have a damaging effect.

Now representatives from the county FA have agreed to fight the move.

“We agreed as a council to try to stop the FA’s changes to step five,” Bentley explained.

“All 20 of the division-one clubs were sent a very simple circular and every one of them signed it to say they want to remain in the Sussex County FA. That will be sent off to the the FA shortly.”

There are 14 leagues at step five of the non-league pyramid but the FA want to cut this to 12, so there are two leagues feeding into each of the six leagues above at step four.

According to Bentley, the biggest changes nationally will be seen in the Sussex League and the United Counties League in the Midlands – who were also deeply opposed to the changes, he said.

Teams like Peacehaven would see their travel greatly increased while the likes of Pagham, Selsey and Chichester City – who would join the Evostik Southern League – could have to play some games on the Isle of Wight.

Bentley believed some Sussex top-flight clubs would opt to drop down to step six rather than incur crippling extra costs, which could force clubs in division two to be relegated into division three.

And he is adamant the changes are totally unnecessary, calling the plans ‘the biggest case of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut he had ever seen’.

The FA are carrying out final consultations on the review and insist no final decision has yet been made.

But with the majority of step-five leagues in favour, it looks set to be pushed through.