Doubts over the futures of many Ridgeons League clubs

A HOST of Suffolk clubs face the prospect of being ‘relegated’ into the Kingsley Healthcare SIL next season.

The future of the First Division of the Ridgeons League is in doubt if it fails to attract new clubs.

I understand that it could well be disbanded if it does not increase from its current 17 clubs.

There is a limit to how long it can carry on before it becomes unviable and with only one application to join for next season there is a question mark about its future beyond next May with the Ridgeons League reverting back to just one division.

Stowmarket Town, Ipswich Wanderers, Whitton United, Cornard, Team Bury and Long Melford are currently in Division One, while Brantham Athletic, Felixstowe and Walton United, Debenham Leisure Centre and Walsham-le-Willows are currently in the thick of the Premier Division relegation mix.

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There is increasing concern within the Football Association and the Ridgeons League that clubs winning feeder leagues are showing no ambition and are happy to stay where they are.

There are reports of clubs in the Senior Division of the SIL paying their players �30 a game and remaining successful at a lower level and so blocking those clubs who want to advance.

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Ridgeons League secretary Nigel Spurling made no comment on whether his league will revert back to a single division, but he revealed that he has real concern.

“We have capacity of 22 clubs in Division One,” he said. “And we need to increase the numbers pretty quickly.

“Successful clubs within our feeder leagues are staying put and holding up those below who are more ambitious and want to move up.”

From this season the criteria for moving up to the Ridgeons League from its feeder divisions that also include the Cambridgeshire League, Anglian Combination and the Essex and Suffolk Border League has been altered to read:

‘Champions - or runners-up if the team above them does not want to go up or the third-placed team if the two above them don’t want to go up – and they get agreement from their current league.’

Lakenheath from the Cambridgeshire League are the only club that has applied to move into the Ridgeons League next season and they have yet to install floodlights.

Only Framlingham Town from the SIL have the facilities to move up, and they are positioned at the wrong end of the Senior Division table.

Clubs that win the Premier League of the Ridgeons from now on will have to explain to the FA why they don’t want to move up the ladder.

Leiston and Dereham have already applied to move to the Ryman League next summer and others may follow before the December 31 deadline – with the league expected to be one more club down next term as Leiston and Dereham are favourites for the title.

In recent years AFC Sudbury, Bury Town, Soham, Lowestoft Town and Needham Market have all moved up out of the Ridgeons League although there is a possibility Soham might be ‘relegated’ back at the end of season, which would help in some way to alleviate the current genuine concerns.

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