|Bridlington Town in action|
By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Bridlington Town chairman Peter Smurthwaite has called on the FA to review the Northern League’s status as a level nine league.
Mr Smurthwaite’s stance is taken from the Northern League’s dominance in the FA Vase which has seen a North East side win the competition for five consecutive seasons.
North Ferriby United were the last Northern Counties East League side to reach the Wembley final in 1997, while Brigg Town were the last NCEL winners when they won the trophy a year earlier.
Mr Smurthwaite believes the stronger Northern League should be taken out and placed in a new Division at level eight as NCEL clubs cannot compete with the North East clubs financially.
The Northern League has grown stronger since a number of clubs pulled out of the NPL including Whitley Bay, Spennymoor, Durham City and Bishop Auckland, leaving only a couple of North East clubs in the NPL.
“We haven’t been included in the draw yet because, I think, of the position we finished in the league last year,” he said.
“We are exempt for a couple of rounds, but if it is anything last year, we played Spennymoor the eventual winners in the first round and they were miles in front of us.
“I was speaking to one of their officials and they actually stayed at Scarborough overnight like a professional team. I think they had 22 players on contract and they virtually brought their full squad.
“Their wage bill sounded really good and I just think that the Northern League is so strong that it should be incorporated into the Evo Stik League as another Division, say the Division One North or North East.
“It is not quite an even playing field (financially), some Northern League clubs would dispute that. But the record stands for itself of how many Northern League teams have won the Vase in the last ten years.
“Whitley Bay won it three years on the trot and then Dunston won it. It is so difficult for us teams in the Northern Counties and unfortunately we seem to get drawn early-on against these teams. To be fair, even at home, we struggle against these teams because there is a difference in the level of football we’re playing at.
“I don’t think it is particularly good for the Vase because it is limiting the rest of the country’s opportunities. It has virtually become a North East party day.”
Mr Smurthwaite, who believes the Vase is not just about the prize money as “it is an opportunity to go to Wembley", has been a long-term advocate of introducing a new division and has previously given his views to NCEL league officials and also the media.
“I wrote to the Non-League Paper a couple of years saying that I didn’t think it was an even playing field in the Vase,” he said.
“There were a few responses with a few different people writing and I noticed that there were a couple of letters at the back end of last season suggesting more-or-less what I’m suggesting.”
|Bridlington Town boss Gary Allanson|
Mr Smurthwaite has also praised Bridlington manager Gary Allanson who returned to the club last month after Mitch Cook’s departure.
“I was pleased Gary was able to take over because he had a fantastic record when he was at the club before, we won the league,” he said.
“He’s been out of management game for a couple of years, but he has missed it and he had real desire and hunger to come back and do it. The players really respect him and he’s a fantastic coach. He puts on great coaching sessions and he has a lot of contacts as well, via his work at the Hull City academy, to bring in young players which is what we are doing now.
“We’re building up nicely. It was pretty difficult with Gary coming in late to take over. The early part of pre-season has been disrupted, but now we’re getting into it we’re looking sharp again.”