Brantham Athletic: Proposals could destroy our club

BRANTHAM Athletic chairman Peter Crowhurst said the proposals to re-structure football at Step 5 level have the potential to “destroy” his and other clubs.

Brantham are one of seven Ridgeons League clubs who will form a new London North East Division along with clubs from the Essex Senior League from the 2013/14 season onwards if the proposals go ahead.

The remaining Ridgeons League clubs will form a new Eastern Division together with clubs from the United Counties League as part of the proposals to reduce the number of leagues at Step 5 level from 14 to 12.

Crowhurst said: “Brantham Athletic are shocked and deeply concerned by the proposed changes to the Step 5 Football League structure. Having spent five years planning with the Suffolk FA and having worked so hard to re-establish ourselves, this has the potential to destroy Brantham Athletic FC and the clubs in the same bracket.

“This may sound emotive, but how can we expect our young people to regularly travel to central London for a substantial number of games through heavy traffic? The travel arrangements and venues are far more onerous than the Ryman League at Step 3 or 4.

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“Over five years we have very carefully positioned ourselves in a league whose aims, ethics and family culture reflects our own. We have a deep mutual respect and trust with the Ridgeons League and Eastern Counties committee and all the clubs who form its structure.

“But this is about to be blown apart by a national strategy that takes no account of the regional balance and cultural links.”

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Crowhurst said there had been little consultation up to this point, yet clubs had been presented with a complete breakdown of clubs for each new division.

“In comparative terms this is like telling Ipswich Town they will be playing all their games in France or Holland in 18 months’ time. It has exactly the same ramifications to us in terms of travel, effect to our supporters and sponsors.”

He said people at the club had worked hard and were determined to make their 125th anniversary year special, but there was now a “black cloud causing an enormous amount of concern and disruption” at Brantham.

“It will also de-stable this year’s league as clubs potentially extend themselves to try and get out of this impending change with early election to Step 4.

“Only two weeks ago we took a long-term view following a five-year plan to develop to Step 4 rather than seek hurried election this year.

“I am astounded by the timing of this announcement. If we could turn back the clock we may have made a different decision two weeks ago and opted for election to Step 4.”

Brantham and the six other clubs provisionally placed in the London NE division – FC Clacton Felixstowe & Walton, Hadleigh United, Stanway Rovers, Wivenhoe Town and Woodbridge Town – are meeting tonight at Stanway to discuss the proposals.

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