Help from FA being sought
FOOTBALL: Ridgeons League officials have urged the FA to help solve a looming crisis which could change the face of non-League football across East Anglia.
The league's management committee is 'very concerned' about a lack of teams applying for promotion to its Division One, in which Fakenham Town play.
Teams folding or amalgamating higher up the pyramid have seen fewer clubs move down, while many clubs at step seven – which includes the Anglian Combination and Suffolk & Ipswich League – do not want to get promoted.
Despite insisting the two-division set-up is not at immediate threat, Ridgeons League secretary Nigel Spurling insisted something needs to be done.
'There has been no discussion whatsoever regarding the possibility of disbanding the First Division,' he said. 'However, I would not wish to speculate its future in, say, five years time if this continues.
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'We've asked the FA to consider relaxing the rules for promotion because a number of clubs at step seven have said they do not wish to be promoted but other clubs are being blocked as a result.'
The First Division has only 17 teams, which is five below its capacity of 22. The Premier Division, currently led by Dereham Town, could see its numbers reduced from 22 to boost the number of teams in the First Division.
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'There are two major reasons clubs are not progressing,' said Spurling. 'The jump from step seven to step six is a massive step financially because you need floodlights and these can cost �35,000 to �40,000.
'Other clubs are happy to be a big fish in a small pond and want to win their league each year. Teams that invest in facilities, so as to be able to progress, are finishing their leagues behind teams that have invested in players.
'The issue has generated considerable debate and we look forward to talking this through with clubs to think about an agreeable way forward.
'We'd rather be talking about this now than when we've reached a critical point. We need to be discussing and planning and not firefighting at the 11th hour.'