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Northern pressure forces FA to consider changes to league system

By Paul Connolly

Pressure from clubs in the National Football League has forced the Football Association to consider a re-structure of the league system.

Officials of Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division and Division One clubs were informed of the plans on Thursday evening at a meeting in Woodlesford.

The proposals would see the introduction for the much-called for Midlands League at steps three and four, with the boundary for the current Northern Premier League continually shifting further south.

The timescale announced would see the plans introduced for the start of the 2018/19 season, with no relegation from step four next season, and possibly no relegation from step three, to make the system work.

Whitby Town chairman Graham Manser has welcomed the idea, branding the club’s current mileage as “madness”.

“We’re currently travelling as far as Corby and Stourbridge,” Manser said. “The changes just can’t come soon enough.

“The current travel costs are crippling the club and we have a battle getting players to travel to the West Midlands week in week out.

“We now only have eight teams north of the M62 corridor in this league, which is ridiculous. Even then that includes Workington up in Cumbria and Skelmersdale which is Southport.

“Travelling to Southport on a Tuesday night because it is considered as one of our nearest matches is crazy.”

Despite the positive reaction, the launch of the English Football League’s ‘Whole Game Solution’ earlier this year will mean no action can be taken to put the plans into action until mid-2017.

The National Football League now have to wait until the EFL re-structure is voted on by member clubs, which is not expected until March next year.

Northern Premier League chairman Mark Harris believes there could be a knock on effect due to the outcome of the vote.

“If it goes ahead, it will have a massive impact,” Harris told the gathered officials. “Until we know the results of the straw poll we can’t move this forward.

“We have to look at what happens with the fourth division too. We could end up with a situation where the top of the Non-League system is a national league and the bottom of the Football League system is regional.

“All I can say is there are many hoops higher up the line that we have to jump through to get there yet.”

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