League Two And The Blue Square Premier: The Blurring Of The Lines


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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23 Responses

  1. Bernard says:

    The BSBP and L2 should be merged and then regionalised. Would cut down an awful lot of unnecessary travel.

    Keep 4 down from L1. 2 up from each regionalised L2 and direct promotion from BSPN to L2N, and BSPS to L2S.

    I speak as an Oxford fan. Been there. Done that.

  2. ejh says:

    The BSBP and L2 should be merged and then regionalised. Would cut down an awful lot of unnecessary travel.

    It would also deprive them (another Oxford fan writes) of most of their interest. The whole reason why falling out of the league hasn’t been the death of clubs which have done so is that the decision to make the top tier of non-league football national made it a much more prestigious competition. Look at the attendances, for pity’s sake.

    People talk about regionalisation as if its sole effect would be to cut costs. They are very wrong. Its major effect would be to reduce interest and therefore income. There is more interest in the fifth tier of English football than there is in – to use an example with which I am familiar – the third tier of Spanish football, and a major reason for that is that the former is national and the latter regional.

    The formation of the national fifth tier is one of the best things ever to happen to English football. Reversing that move would, to put it kindly, be extraordinary.

  3. Dr Bob says:

    Another excellent article that captures clearly how much easier it is to fall into the BSP than to rise out of it and, speaking as (another) Oxford fan, the strength in depth of competition makes me wonder if even going to three up/down would make that much difference.

    Two comments, though. Do not underestimate the strength of some of the clubs coming up into the BSP from below. For every St Albans, having their day in the sun, there is an AFC Wimbledon, Kettering or, this year, Newport County and Fleetwood Town, just to add to the growing number of ex-league clubs finding going tougher than they ever imagined (as if the experiences of Oxford, York, Cambridge, et al, would not apply to them).

    The other issue is “tinpot”. There is no doubt in the minds of many that the management of the Conference is appallingly tinpot. When the debacle over player registrations came to light a couple of seasons ago, it was not just one club but four that faced penalties – regarding the same issue in the same season. Coincidence or an incompetent process in Head Office? How the Conference ignored its own and the FAs rules when failing to deal with the former owners of Chester City last season blighted not only the Conference but the FA as well. And do not get me started on the way they (at the time, at least), set fixtures by hand. Their management was more amateurish than some leagues several steps further down the pyramid. The management of the league is tinpot – the competition is rock’ard.

  4. Phil says:

    I had to smile to myself as an Oxford fan responded positively to the concept of merging League 2 and ConfPrem.

    Oxford almost bankrupted themselves getting out of the Conference last year, and to think that some of their supporters would happily go back to playing Kettering Tamworth and Kiddermister is shocking.

    No offence intended to Tamworth or Kiddermister.

  5. Re: regionalisation – it’s a red herring. For every Bath v Darlington you lose, you’d also lose, say, Kettering v Luton depending on where the arbitrary line is drawn. It really wouldn’t cut costs much, you would lose local derbies in the midlands and of course the southern half of the league would still have some very long distance fixtures – as a Bristol Rovers fan our three longest distance fixtures are Carlisle, Hartlepool and then Colchester. Regionalisation at our level (which also gets suggested with wearisome regularity) would still see us travelling to Essex and the likes of Col U, Southend and Gillingham making long treks to Plymouth and Exeter. I’d also rather see us playing a decent Carlisle side than a (usually) not so decent Torquay. Sure the same applies lower down.

  6. StonesFan says:

    “The truth of the matter is that what we now know as the Blue Square Premier is, for teams relegated from the Football League, a hell of a lot more difficult to fall into than it is to climb out of.”

    Sorry, but don’t you mean “more difficult to climb out of than it is to fall into”?

  7. Tom says:

    I don’t think regionalisation is the answer. Fans of clubs live all over the country (myself a Luton fan living in Yorkshire) so it is far easier and cost effective for me to go and see the team play away to York, Altrincham, Darlington, Fleetwood, Southport etc. Instead the BSP should stop working out fixtures with pencil and paper and get in the modern age and use a computer. Scheduling is the main issue here, Luton travelling to Barrow, Darlington and Gateshead in the space of a week and a half for instance is ridiculous.

  8. Phil says:

    As a small diversion take a look at the example of Altrincham. For a few seasons they have been trying and failing to get out of the Blue Square Premier. The only difference is that they’re trying to go downwards. Their best laid plans seem to get scuppered by a couple of basket cases stealing the relegation places from right under their noses.

  9. Nigel Foster says:

    Thats not really based on fact Phil is it. This season apart we have always done our best to stay up, other clubs bleat when they have finished above us by cheating the tax and vat and paying players that could never afford on a level playing field. The last two seasons we have easily stayed up on merit…don’t let the facts get in the way of a good moan though.

  10. Dermot O'Dreary says:

    Excellent article. Whilst I’m sure Luton fans would support the idea I can’t see regionalisation ever being reintroduced – it’s simple maths. If we take a theoretical merger between L2 and BSP as an example: currently between 48 clubs there’s 6 promotion slots. Merge the two into L2 North and South and there’d be no more than 4, a 50% reduction. OK, the promotion places would be to a higher league, but it would still mean more clubs with less to play for come February and March.

  11. Pottsy says:

    Hey Phil,
    Not sure what team you support but I’m a Altrincham and your your information we are ‘trying to get relegated’ by reducing out debt (inherited from a previous pie-in-the-sky regime) and paying our players and staff what we can afford.
    I’d rather we struggle and risk relegation than invest money we don’t really have and certainly didn’t earn like many in our league and those above. We’re a part-time team paying wages we can afford which will mean we struggle to survive.
    And by the way, the ‘basket cases’ went out of business leaving innocent parties out of pocket and in some cases fans without a club to support. We didn’t have any part in that.

    So come on Phil, fess up .. who’s your club? Let teh rest of us have a pop…..

  12. Dave W says:

    Division 5 should have the same promotion/relegation as between divisions 4 and 3. Speaking as a York fan its been a grind in this division and I fear we are here for many years yet. Crawley are spending sugar daddy big this year – my advice to them ……remember Gretna.

  13. Martin says:

    It would nice if they brought Division 5 in line with Division 4 and regionalisation would solve a lot of issues but turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

  14. Martin says:

    “Luton travelling to Barrow, Darlington and Gateshead in the space of a week and a half for instance is ridiculous”

    Is it?

    I expect combining long-distance away fixtures in this way would save clubs and fans money.

    No club near London has any credibility when complaining about travelling times anywhere as it’s by far the best place to be to get everywhere the fastest (it’s only 3 hours to Barrow by train these days for instance).

  15. Dermot O'Dreary says:

    Martin – in theory, you’re right, the problem was the matches were Tuesday-Saturday-Saturday, with a home match on the Tuesday between the two Saturday matches.

    Luton did ask Darlington and Gateshead if they were prepared to change the dates of the matches to Wednesday-Friday to enable them to stay over, but both clubs refused.

  16. Billy Bones says:

    Agree with most on here (apart from Phils comments) regionalise Div2 and BSP in this day and age of carbon footprint gumf surely it makes sense.

  17. Dave says:

    Oxford Utd fans always seem to think they have a divine right to get back into the football league. Why???? They were ” not good enough to stay in the league, but are realising that the clubs are better then they thought in the BSP.I support Kettering Town and they do like to look down their noses at us.

  18. Great job, Ian, and I am glad to see the Guardian thinks so too.

  19. Martin says:

    So they got it right about the Tuesday and Saturday consecutively “oop north” then?

    Everyone wants to be in a national division but no-one wants the occassional accompanying hassles.

  20. Micky F says:

    Rather than merging the BSP with League 2 to create two regional divisions how about creating a Division Five? You could take say the top eight clubs from the BSP (conditional on ground and average crowds meeting certain criteria) and then add the bottom twelve clubs from League 2.

    Leagues 1 & 2 and the Championship would all be reduced to 20 teams (bottom four from Championship to League 1 & bottom eight from League 1 to League 2). The smaller divisions would create more games with meaning as there would be less scope for teams to just chug along in mid table.

  21. Rob says:

    @DrBob: “How the Conference ignored its own and the FAs rules when failing to deal with the former owners of Chester City last season blighted not only the Conference but the FA as well.”

    To be fair to the Conference, they were allegedly being pressured by the League to accept Chester into the Conference National, while the FA made an unannounced one word change at the end of May 2009 to their rules that enabled Chester to no longer break FA rules. Without that one word change, the FA would have been breaking their own rules.

    @Micky F: I’ve thought the same for years.

  22. Cal says:

    As a Shrewsbury fan regionalisation would be the worse thing that could happen because we would probably be put in the Southern half even though most of our closest games (Crewe, Port Vale, Bury etc) are with northern teams. The vast majority of the teams that would be in the southern league are a lot further from us than the northern teams. Not a good idea for us Midlanders!

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