Non-league structure set for big shake-up

Bamber Bridge chairman Frank Doyle
Bamber Bridge chairman Frank Doyle
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A proposed restructure of the non-league foootball pyramid could be in place for the 2018/19 season.

Clubs at step three and four level of the pyramid – which includes the Northern Premier League Premier Division and the First Division North – were told at a mid-season meeting two weeks ago about the planned proposal.

The contents of the proposal are not yet public but we understand extra divisions could be introduced.

The proposed changes, we understand, could mean limited relegation at the end of the 2017/18 season, while extra promotion places could be up for grabs at step five level, which includes the North West Counties League Premier Division.

Ground grading criteria will have to be assessed before any club could be be promoted to the next level, but the proposed changes will affect a whole host of clubs in the area such as Bamber Bridge, Lancaster City, Clitheroe, Kendal Town and Burscough.

Bamber Bridge chairman Frank Doyle revealed his club have been kept abreast of the planned shake-up, but the finer details have still yet to be ironed out.

“I think one of the problems for clubs in our division (the NPL First Division North) if you do go on to win promotion to the Premier Division, you have then got a lot of travelling.

“You’re probably looking at 17 coach journeys to away games – that’s £500/600 to find every time. That is a big drain on the budget.

“I think for a club like Bamber Bridge, going to South Manchester and a bit into Yorkshire is all right any further than that then it starts to become a big expense.”

Doyle believes that the FA may look to set up a Midlands league, which could gives clubs like Charnock Richard, AFC Blackpool and Squires Gate, who currently ply their trade in the North West Counties League, the room to step up a level.

“I think there are lot of good clubs with good facilities in the North West Counties League,” added Doyle.