By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Premier Division teams in the Northern Counties East League will face the arduous task of playing 46 league games next season.
The FA have decided that the Premier Division should go up from 22 teams to 24 which increases the number of matches played during the season.
Now in theory, the idea looks great. But in practice, it is likely to be a complete disaster.
The 2012-13 season limped over the finish line because of unprecedented weather throughout the season. The campaign had to be extended by a week.
Next season, if we encounter the same or worse weather, the NCEL Premier could be still playing at the May.
And for the majority of sides, the season will have been over for months – from a table perspective. Because of only one team can have the chance to win promotion, anybody around seventh to 15th, maybe even lower, will have nothing to play for.
This will render a substantial amount of games from February to the finish completely meaningless.
Then there is the issue of finance. Funds are limited for the majority of clubs at NCEL, look at Askern Villa last season.
Forty-six games will test a number of clubs to the limit. The cost of travelling to a long-distance meaningless fixture on mid-week would be probably more than the wages for players.
Then there is the added factor of getting a team together for a long-distance trip in midweek when there is nothing to play for.
There are going to be teams running on empty – both financially and in terms of their playing squad.
Increasing the number of games to 46 is a dangerous manoeuvre by the FA and even leaves the door firmly open for desperate clubs to play ringers – just to fulfil a fixture.
From another finance point, attendances for the string of meaningless fixtures are going to be extremely low so clubs won’t even have a chance to make money – will the gate receipts even cover the cost of the referees?
The decision needs to be reviewed at the earliest opportunity. And let us not forget that teams won’t be just playing 46 games. There are the cups to consider.
The FA Cup, the FA Vase, the NCEL League Cup, the NCEL President’s Cup and the County Cups add to the total. Teams could be playing an incredible 60 games next year.
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