In a week’s time, step three of the Non-League pyramid will be concluded with the final promotion places decided by the play-offs. Unfortunately, the process of determining who will be playing where starts at this point as the respective leagues will enter into horse trading to ensure a fair and equitable split of teams. This undoubtably will lead to winners and losers. Unfortunately, the nature of the Non-League pyramid means that the words fair and equitable simply will not exist next season. In the past few seasons “Southern” teams such as Gloucester City , Worcester City, Bishops Stortford and Histon have had to ensure travel misery as they were placed in the same league as Workington, Barrow and Harrogate Town meaning teams have to travel thousands of miles each season. In the Ryman Premier League we have three three hundred mile plus away trips to Suffolk, hardly fun on a Saturday, let alone on a Tuesday night.
Rumours started surfacing a few weeks ago that the most westerly clubs in the Ryman Premier League may be asked (and by asked I mean in footballing terms which equates to an order with a complicated appeal process involving unicorns and dragons) to move across to the Southern Premier League. With Wealdstone powering their way to the Conference South, it has left Harrow Borough and their current tenants Hendon in a potentially sticky situation of not knowing whether they will be heading to the seaside of Margate or Poole next season, or wearing their Christmas jumpers against Hampton & Richmond Borough or Chesham United. The 300 mile long return trips east to Lowestoft Town and Leiston would be replaced by near 600 mile jaunts to Truro City or 450 to Bideford FC. Fun for all the family I’m sure.
Travel costs are a big part of any clubs budgets at this level, with coaches a pre-requisite for most away games with a match day squad of up to twenty five people when you factor in the management team. Gone are the days of players hoping on public transport with their boots to games. Today it is all about Travel Suits, Beats by Dr Dre and Snapchat. Guernsey’ position potentially in our league next season, assuming they win through the Ryman South play offs, has raised a few interesting eyebrows as they currently fund trips to the island for away teams and their management team, although that has led to a few issues this season including away teams delayed by fog, air traffic control restrictions and on one occasion, an air rage incident. Continue reading