Is More Regional Football The Answer To The Lower Divisions’ Prayers?


Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

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17 Responses

  1. Tim Vickerman says:

    If more regional football was introduced, cutting overheads and boosting revenue from attendances, wouldn’t the chairmen just spend the extra money on players? I think the issue is that football is, on the whole, so badly-run and far too many clubs overstretch themselves in pursuit of glory. Those running the clubs ultimately should take responsibility for driving a club into he ground, rather than blaming it on the system.

    Also, is there any guarantee that a merged League 2/Conference would see higher gates across the board? Yes, the teams are closer geographically but the standard of football is, arguably, reduced significantly.

    English football is special and unique in having such a rich football history in such a small area that away support is seen as a key component of the supporters’ experience. And having a national, largely professional 5th tier is possibly a stretch but, in global terms, Barrow to Bath isn’t really that far, is it?

  2. Paul Caulfield says:

    Barrow to Bath is a fair distance for a midweek fixture, particularly if you have to get
    to work the following day.

  3. And thus, the FA in their wisdom decide that, as promotion up the pyramid is all important, it’s time to reduce regionalisation all the more.

    In cutting the number of step 5 leagues (which includes the UCL where Kings Lynn now play) from 14 to 12, they simply propogate the problem down the structure.

    Yet the top of the pyramid is fundamentally imbalanced. It will never be perfect, but the FA are actively planning to make it worse.

  4. SteveinSoCal says:

    Seriously? Election to the football league “would work” if regionalisation was re-introduced? I’d suggest that this flies in the face of what actually happened. Between 1950 and 1979 only 7 non-league clubs were elected to the FL… You might want to do a little research before publishing.

    Only the top-flight of NL football is national – the BSB Conference Prem (level 5) everything else below is regionalised and I would suspect that the majority of clubs in that division would like it to remain so (as would their supporters). If a club, such as Bath City, don’t want to or can’t compete with their current structure they could always turn down automatic promotion.

    Your arguments are spurious to say the least – it’s not as if the Conference has a monopoly on clubs over-reaching or being run by a dodgy chairmen or board…

    I support a team in the Conf (see comments re dodgy board – and while we’ve been on-loan from the FL for a few years :(), the aim and goal is to return to the FL with a manageable budget and appropriate infrastructure.

  5. Dave says:

    Whilst I can understand how regionalizing the leagues would certainly bring about some financial benefit I find it difficult to understand why anyone would think the league structure is on anyway responsible for clubs overreaching themselves and getting themselves into financial difficulty. The responsibility for that lies completely with those at the clubs who are running them beyond their means. And it certainly is not restricted to those clubs in non league, you only need look to Vale and Pompey. Promotion and relegation should be available at every level of football within England, every club should have the possibility of progressing. Just because a number have done so by spending what they do not have does not mean this should not be available to those who run a tight ship and live within their limits. Whilst the financial issues we see within the game certainly need to be addressed I really do think you are looking in completely the wrong direction when looking to the current league structure. Marine and Forest Green both play within the same league structure; as to why the latter found itself in financial trouble is down to how the club was run. Not because of the current league structure. If Marine (and many other clubs who are run within their means) can look after themselves within the current structure then everyone else should also be able to do so. This is down to how these clubs are run. Simple as.

  6. Rob S says:

    I can see where this piece is coming from, but I can’t agreee. My team, at the wrong end of the BSP having dropped out of the league last season (OK, that narrows it down) drew 4,518 for a big home game last weekend. Like most BSP clubs, we’re full time and have no intention of changing that. It’s been hard enough to stomach the drop into non-league, not being ‘one of the 92′, less local press coverage, that horrible black and white ball, etc. But if you squint a bit, it still looks more or less like League Two football. Make the drop out of the FL one that goes straight into regionalised football and that relegation could be a death knell.

    Yes, Braintree and Bath are trying to cope on three figure crowds, but frankly, that’s tough. Braintree are doing a pretty good job, Bath not so much. The latter will be almost certainly relegated to the BS South and might be able to regroup. Them’s the breaks, sadly.

  7. Borys says:

    My feeling is “meh”. It is not the setup itself, but the people running the clubs (and who decide about the setup too) who are responsible for problems. The Conference is bloated – that’s one of the problems. There are c. 43 weekends in a season. At least 5-6 weekends must be put aside for the Cups and play-offs. Even playing some fixtures Fr/Sat-Mon on Bank Holidays, the 24 or 22 team league format ensures quite a few games on weekdays.
    Conference National should be cut down do 22 or 20 teams. That’s at least 4 Tuesdays less …

  8. Steve (MUFC) says:

    Agree with the sentiments of the article. Would personally prefer League Two and BSP merged and regionalised, i.e. league two north/south. Then four regional divisions below that with only the champions eligible for promotion. However one problem with regional football is where you draw the borders. This always leads to disputes.
    Also think there are too many clubs in some divisions which compromises quality and reduces the desirability of cup competitions. So would slim down the divisions to Prem 18, Champ 20, then everything else capped at 22.

  9. Kreig Zimmerman says:

    I would think the real move would to be re-introduce the old D3N and S in the Football League. Then the non-league game could be successfully regionalized below that with a Conference N and S directly below that. The thing for English football is that the old system of three regional leagues below the Conference always blurs thinking and brings in issues of “fairness” in relegation. Well if a club is Conference N and goes back down and needs become Conference S then so be it. And in this scheme then only the champions go back up which relieves pressure on the pros and reduces the incentive to overdo the urge to go FT on non-league sides.

  10. Geoff White says:

    I can’t see why the old system of 3 regional leagues “blurs thinking” At some point travelling needs to be reduced down for the benefit of semi-pro clubs. Bishops’s Stortford, part time, and next to London’s third airport now find themselves in the |Conference North facing Tuesday evening fixtures at Colwyn Bay and Halifax where players are going to need two days off work. If the blurring of thinking is that 3 doesn’t go into 2 than have four regional feeders

  11. Paul Sheppard (Bath) says:

    I have to agree that the problem stems from the people running the clubs and Addie Britton gives the usual example of those people ignoring the obvious financial facts.

    Bath City have lost an average of @£60,ooo per year for several years running now culminating in a (recently announced/leaked) loss of £120,000 for the 2010/2011 financial year which was spent playing as a part-time team in the BSP. Addie Britton himself was Chairman for some of that period so should know better about being able to claim that those losses and total club debts approaching £1 million mean that the club is being run on a “sustainable budget”.

    Even more interesting is the ignorance of the fans who have bought a share in this. Since Bath City supporters took over the club some years back from a board who were accused of fleecing the club the debt has multiplied by @6X.

    When the Bath City Supporters Society convinced ordinary fans to contribute money to a subsequent share buy back from a previous majority shareholder they claimed in their literature that they would never allow the club to propose a negative budget. Losses year after year have not been addressed and the budgets produced have not been reduced to a realistic “sustainable” level, ie the previous years budget minus the previous years losses. Simple accounting but on a footballing level unsustainable…

    So I suppose what I am trying to point out is that anyone involved with any club (bar Marine apparently) is willing to allow their club to overspend just for the dream of success. Or am I just trying to point out that football will never be built on realistic business sense?

  12. Paul Caulfield says:

    Thanks for the comments – I’m gratified by the response. This is an opinion piece and isn’t totally watertight,
    so there’s always room for disagreement. However, I maintain that it is possible for non-League sides to be
    successful on a local level by running a range of teams, using the facilties for community groups etc, while winning
    matches and maintaining their support, without the so-called Holy Grail of the Football League clouding their thinking.
    Only two clubs get promoted from the Conference each season, with maybe six/seven others in contention. For the
    rest, balancing the books is the priority, so that the other things the clubs does (community activities etc) can be

  13. MDS says:

    The idea of ending automatic promotion to the Football League and bringing back election is ludicrous. Sorry, but it is. Badly run clubs in the Football League would only get worse knowing that while they are only maybe two promotions away from the big time, they can never actually be relegated out of the League. Rather than offering encouragement to clubs to get their house in order, such a system would mean that clubs could run way beyond their means and then wait for the next sugar daddy to come along, or go bust altogether rather than taking their medicine and regrouping in the Conference or below.
    Also, regionalised football probably looks like a lovely idea if you’re in the North West or South East. It’s not as much fun having two leagues, north and south, if you’re in the Midlands. What benefit would a north/south split be to Hereford, Cheltenham, or Kidderminster? The travelling would remain the same and you would also know that most other clubs would only be spending half of what you do on travel.
    As other correspondents have said, you can’t blame problems caused by bad management on the league system. Would regionalisation have saved Portsmouth, or Port Vale, or Coventry from the situation they are now in? I don’t think so somehow. Bad financial planning isn’t the sole preserve of non-league clubs, and they shouldn’t have to wait for a club to go bust before they get their chance in the league.

  14. Paul Caulfield says:

    I stand by what I said on overambition. There are too many clubs in non-League spending money they haven’t got, on players they can’t afford, pursuing something they cannot reach or maintain. Histon, Rushden and Maidstone are three clubs who over-reached themselves and paid the penalty. The ‘prize’ of Football League or Conference membership seems to blind some clubs to everything else, including payments to the HMRC and other creditors, which are forgotten in the pursuit of promotion. This is the ‘blurred thinking’ I referred to earlier.

  15. Philip Lewis says:

    I support a team at step 8 of the football pyramid. There has already been major reorganisation of the leagues at that level in the last few years. We now exist in the “north” division of the “Northern” Premier league. This sees us visit teams from Cheshire to County Durham. Before, we would have been facing teams from Shropshire and Derbyshire. I think the extra regionalisation has been for the better.

    During the reorganisation, it was suggested that the F.A. should create an East and West split rather than North and South. I don’t think it was ever taken seriously. The argument for this was due to the fact that traveling up and down the country is easier than traveling across.

    I am definitely for regionalisation for non-league clubs like ours. More derbies, less traveling. However, in cup competitions (FA Cup and FA Trophy), I’d prefer LESS regionalisation. I’m speaking purely as a fan, but we find ourselves playing exactly the same league teams for about 3 or 4 rounds before the competition goes truly national. It gets a bit monotonous. When my club played in the FA Vase (before my time), the old-timers speak of great days out to Esh Winning and Brandon United in the cup competitions, which were rather exotic locations. I’m sure clubs don’t mind going a bit further afield for a one-off game, and it gives us fans something a bit different to look forward to. I also think league clubs should enter the F.A. cup earlier than they do. I don’t buy this ‘safety; issue about big clubs traveling to small clubs too early in the competition. It would be more fun for everyone.

  16. Stokie (BTFC) says:

    There is a huge problem with only promoting one team from a league, you always get a runaway leader and other teams end up playing dead rubbers for 4-5 months which why the BSS and BSN was set up with playoiffs.

    Please do not go back to these dark days!

  1. March 2, 2012

    […] possible solution may be to reintroduce greater regionalisation back to the lower divisions.” twohundredpercent Share this:StumbleUponDiggRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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