Ridgeons League could accept reserve sides

THREE possible proposals are up for discussion at a meeting of all member clubs being held to try and safeguard the future of the Ridgeons League First Division.

There is genuine concern that the division will become unviable if it drops below its current level of 17 clubs.

Publicity in this column towards the end of last year has had the desired affect and Ipswich Wanderers, Cornard and Saffron Walden have called for a mandatory meeting that is being held at Diss Town on Monday, January 31.

“We have got to do something about it, and now we have an opportunity before it possibly becomes too late,” said league secretary Nigel Spurling.

“The division is vulnerable and if Portsmouth for example had disbanded from the Football League Championship the fall-out could have filtered down to our Division One level.”

There will be a �200 fine for any club that fails to appear at the special general meeting on Monday week with Spurling outlining the three proposals that could be put to the Football Association.

The first is to introduce a moratorium whereby clubs who have facilities to move up to step six will be able to do so whether they finish in qualifying step seven positions or not.

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The second is to reduce the number of clubs in the Premier Division from its current 22 by relegating extra teams down to the First Division.

And the third suggestion up for discussion is for reserve teams to be allowed in.

AFC Sudbury, Lowestoft Town and Braintree would be obvious candidates although FA rules restrict second XI’s to go no higher than step six so they would not be able to be promoted to the Premier Division.

Spurling said: “Speaking personally I’m keen to see a moratorium take place as I know of four or five clubs in East Anglia who have facilities very close to those required and have previously expressed a desire to play step six football.

“If they moved into our league it would solve the problem.

“And having spoken to some Premier Division clubs I know they would consider a reduction from the current 22.

“I feel sorry for clubs that may fall by the wayside because they have so many games to play in the final weeks of the season.

“With Leiston’s FA Cup and FA Vase involvement and a spate of bad weather they are almost at a point this season when they will be required to play three games a week – and that takes its toll.”

The FA encourages clubs to move up the football ladder so they could well listen sympathetically to the proposals that come out of this meeting.

They already require clubs who are in the top half of step five leagues and have not applied for promotion by the cut-off date of December 31 to write to them and explain why.

The FA has received three applications from Ridgeons League clubs for promotion to step four level for 2011/12 - Dereham Town, Leiston and Mildenhall Town with Haverhill Rovers’ application being received too late.

Spurling will reveal on January 31 that four clubs have applied to join his league from step seven leagues but it is believed they are by no means certain to satisfy the current qualifying requirements.

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