Friday, May 09, 2014

Giving the FA a kicking

Followers of football know that, in England, the sport is governed by the Football Association but pro and semi-pro clubs play in a variety of leagues. For many years the top clubs, in the Football League, held aloof from the rest. In the 1980s it became possible for clubs from lower down to be promoted into the League (and for the clubs at the bottom of the League to fall into the void of "Non-League Football").  Since then a number of reorganisations have produced a fairly coherent structure going down some 10 levels from the Premier League to local county associations and any club in what is known as the "Pyramid" can aspire to the very top.

The outfit I follow have this season won their league and will play next year in the Conference South (or level 6).  But if new plans unveiled this week by the FA go ahead, then a new league will be created, below the Football League 2 and above the existing 5th tier league, the Conference, thus pushing all the rest down a rung. Most of the teams in this league will be the reserve teams of Premier clubs.  This plan is supposed to be good for English football and to generate more home-grown players. It has met with a storm of protest from the lower levels (who were not, of course, consulted because the FA is overawed by, and in the pocket of, the Premier League  - or to be more precise, by the obscenely rich owners of the top clubs). For clubs such as mine (Wealdstone, if you don't already know), it would simply mean being made less relevant, would reduce crowds and income and, crucially, make it harder to attract decent players. We, like other non-league clubs, have an honourable history of being the jumping-off point for players who have gone on to play at the top of their profession (Stuart Pearce and Vinny Jones being the most famous examples, both of whom I remember watching some 30 years ago).

A campaign to overturn the plans has materialised almost overnight and a petition has been signed by more than 20,000 people within 2 days. The organisers, two non-league fans, are on Twitter as AgainstLeague3 and have a website for gathering more opinions  and I wish them well.

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