Eastern Counties League clubs breathe huge sigh of relief

THE MAJORITY of clubs in the Premier Division of the Eastern Counties League breathed a huge sigh of relief yesterday after the FA scrapped proposals to re-organise Step 5 football.

The FA Leagues Committee announced that the proposals to reduce the number of Step 5 leagues from 14 to 12 with effect from the 2013/14 season have been scrapped. The proposal was deemed to be “unworkable” and has now been withdrawn.

There was widespread concern among Premier Division clubs in the Eastern Counties League when the proposals were announced earlier this year.

The proposals would have split the Premier Division in half, with seven clubs - three from Essex and four from Suffolk - going into a new London North East Division along with clubs in the Essex Senior League.

The remaining 14 clubs would have joined forces with those in the United Counties League to form a new Eastern Division.

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The proposals would have led to a large increase in travelling for the majority of clubs, and the depth of feeling was such that the Eastern Counties League put forward an alternative suggestion.

Brantham Athletic, who were one of four Suffolk clubs, along with Felixstowe & Walton United, Hadleigh United and Woodbridge Town, faced with travelling up and down the A12 and M25, strongly voiced their concerns over the proposals at the time.

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Secretary Andy Powell said yesterday he was delighted that the proposals had been withdrawn, and that the FA had listened to clubs and leagues.

“It would have caused us massive logistical problems travelling anywhere inside the M25, and once you are across that and into London it would have been a nightmare.

“We considered the increased travelling expenses and time required off work for midweek matches as being unrealistic to implement at our level, and it looks like the FA have taken on board the views of the clubs and the Eastern Counties League, who submitted an alternative suggestion,” he said.

Phil Knight, chief executive of Suffolk FA, said: “Whilst understanding the need to address the restructuring of Step 5/6 of the pyramid, I am pleased the review group has taken heed of the concerns of local clubs and leagues.

“Suffolk FA will continue to work with our clubs and leagues to ensure that ground grading commitments are met thereby securing a sustainable future for our senior clubs.”

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