Officials and delegates from the region’s football clubs will head to Leicester on Sunday armed to the teeth with statistics as the battle begins to save the United Counties League from being ripped apart.
Representatives from all of the UCL’s clubs met with officials from the league at Raunds Town on Thursday to discuss the FA’s proposed abandonment of the UCL Step 5 Premier Division.
At that meeting was league official John Walker, who told The Hunts Post: “This is now a battle and we have asked the clubs to arm themselves with a battery of statistics for Sunday’s meeting.
“We are definitely hoping to force the FA’s League Committee into a rethink.
“We explained that some clubs’ travelling costs would increase by up to 40 per cent.
“And in this day and age, shouldn’t we also be thinking about clubs’ carbon footprints too!”
The UCL chairman, John Weeks, will be heading to Leicester with delegates of 19 of the 20 UCL Premier clubs who are all affected by the plans. He didn’t mince his words either.
“Each club has its own unique situation,” he said. “But if the FA pushes this through – the future looks bleak for many of them.
“It is a sad day when clubs say to me they might have to move back to Step 6 because their budget doesn’t add up anymore.
“And of course, these moves will affect many clubs’ reserve and under-18s’ teams.”
One of the delegates attending Sunday’s meeting will be Simon Clark, the secretary of St Ives Town, who are currently in the Premier Division. He says the club will do all it can to save the Division – but that ultimately a move to the Eastern Counties League would not cause them too many problems.
“Personally, I can see this move is bad for the UCL and a lot of the teams in the League,” he said. “But it could be good for Step 5 football. To be fair, we are one of the lesser losers.Our team would be placed in the Premier Division of the Eastern Counties League. But we will happily do whatever we can to save the UCL.”
The current FA Leagues Committee proposal has only two leagues across the width of England, and seven across the south. Wellingborough appears to be a rough dividing point across the country.
Ten clubs – Blackstones, Deeping, Irchester, King’s Lynn, Peterborough Northern Star, Stewarts & Lloyds, St Ives, Thrapston, Wellingborough and Yaxley – would be placed in a re-organised Eastern Counties Premier, while fives clubs – Cognehoe, Daventry United, Desborough, Long Buckby and Northampton Spencer – would join a Midlands division. Another four clubs – Boston, Holbeach, Sleaford and Spalding – would join a league based in the North East.
A further two clubs – AFC Kempston and Newport Pagnell – would be forced into a ‘north west London’ league.
The worry is, says Weeks, that many of these clubs would simply apply to drop from Step 5 to Step 6 to save on costs. This, in turn, would cause havoc with the lower Step – the current UCL Division One – also being destabilised.
“I have a genuine concern for the clubs,” the chairman told The Hunts Post.