Suffolk FA in favour of alternative Step 5 suggestion

SUFFOLK Football Association has voted unanimously to reject the original FA proposals for Step 5 re-organisation and instead given its full backing to the Ridgeons League’s alternative suggestion.

Phil Knight, chief executive of Suffolk FA, said that when the issue was discussed at its council meeting it united representatives from senior and junior football in Suffolk in a manner rarely seen in the county.

Knight said that the recommendation that emanated from the Step 5/6 Review had “caused a great deal of concern within the Suffolk football community” and following discussions with both the county chairman and the board of directors it was discussed at an SFA council meeting.

Nigel Spurling, secretary of the Eastern Counties League, was asked to attend and made a short presentation to members, talking members through the recommendations presented to the relevant leagues by the FA at Burton in early January. He also confirmed that the Eastern Counties League had since submitted its own alternative proposal following a period of reflection and consultation.

Knight said: “There then followed a lengthy debate. Mostly constructive, largely reasoned and frequently passionate, a consensus soon formed amongst members. Whilst the need to overhaul the current system was accepted and the decision to appoint FA inspectors to carry out the ground grading process at Step 5, welcomed, there was widespread unrest at the impact that the recommended restructuring could have on Suffolk clubs.

“The cost of additional travelling both in terms of finance and human resource was felt to be so severe that not only could it threaten the continued existence of a number of our clubs within senior football, but it may also deter those ambitious clubs outside of the pyramid from following their dreams of breaking into the senior ranks of the game. The knock-on effects of such stagnation would clearly have lasting repercussions on the 11-a-side game in Suffolk.

“Such was the strength of feeling in the room that when asked to provide direction to our FA delegate with regard to a possible vote on the issue at FA Council, members unanimously voted against the FA proposal, uniting representatives from senior and junior football in a manner not seen with any great frequency within the county. A second ballot also received unanimous support, this time in favour of the Eastern Counties alternative suggestion.”

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Knight has now written to the FA, asking that the “FA take special heed to those clubs for whom the current recommendation under consideration would be a price far too high to pay” in making its decision.