THE next meeting to discuss the future of Step 5 in the football pyramid will take place on March 19.
That is when the Step 5 Review Group will consider the responses they have received so far – the proposals of which the Sussex County League are heavily against – and they will then submit a report to the league committee, when they meet in April, before a decision is then made.
The suggestions, if implemented, would see the number of leagues at Step 5 of the football pyramid reduced from 14 to 12 and could severely increase travel and costs for most Sussex County League clubs.
The FA’s leagues and club manager, Mike Appleby, said: “This is by no means a done deal as some people are implying. It is merely a suggestion of how Step 5 would look if all 287 clubs were divided into 12 geographical divisions.
“We have met with all the league’s clubs and the Step 5 Review Group will meet again on March 19 to consider the responses received so far and submit a report to our leagues commitee when they meet in April. Only then will any decision be made.”
All 20 clubs in the SCFL voted unanimously to block the move last month, but Appleby insists the proposed changes do have backing. He added: “I can assure you many clubs are in favour and that we are only undertaking this exercise because the Step 5 leagues have asked us to do so in recent years.
“If we have a situation where 12 clubs are relegated, then two clubs that have earned the right to go up will be denied the opportunity as there will not be any vacancies. But this is only one suggestion and the leagues committee may still decide to look at other options.”
Sussex County Football League secretary Paul Beard said: “My view is that they will delay the changes for a couple of years. I really don’t see how they can go through with it because if all the clubs say ‘no’ then they will have no clubs left.
“But, if the plans were to go through, it would be absolutely horrendous. It would mean some teams having to travel an extra 800 miles per season and you have to remember that some of these players don’t even get paid – they fund their own travel expenses.
“They can’t be expected to take more time off from their jobs, especially when there are evening fixtures, just to cater for the increased travel.”