It’s the end of the season, and York City have won the final playoff game to secure their return football league. Now, the process of positioning teams in various leagues will begin in a process jokingly referred to as the AGM Cup.
Always controversial, the Football Conference AGM decides who gets placed into various leagues in the Conference system (Conference Premier, North & South). With teams struggling to make ends meet, and the ever shifting North/South borderline, the AGM does throw up a few surprises now and again.
Although teams technically could be affected by the AGM (Hereford, Macclesfield Town, Woking, Hyde, Chester amongst others) are nigh on guaranteed to be in the leagues they were promoted from or relegated to, this article will look into those teams that’s future is a lot less certain.
In this article, I will look to my crystal ball and attempt to predict Steps 1 and 2 of the non-league system next year. Although step 1 itself is fairly secure, step 2 is a lot less predictable. I will look at the big players in their AGM Cup and will attempt to predict which league they will play in next year.
Although now a little more financially secure than they were when previous owner Raj Singh placed them into administration, thanks to the DFC 1883 group, the club has appeared to have saved themselves from folding and also cut ties from those that have caused them so much trouble in the past.
However, in all likelihood they will not be taking their place in the Conference North next year. A document that appeared on the Hellenic League website appeared to save Fleet Town from relegation from the Evostik Southern League and mentions Darlington as the casualties. As such, this is one step further to confirming that Darlington will enter the Northern League at some point.
Mystic Rhys’ Prediction: Northern League (Step 5)
The big winners are, ironically, one of the unluckiest teams in the Conference North – Hinckley United. After the closest Conference North seasons in many a year that could’ve seen any one of eight teams (Corby, Harrogate Town, Vauxhall Motors, Histon, Solihull Moors, Workington, Colwyn Bay and Hinckley) relegated on the last day, Hinckley – who occupied the final relegation spot at the start of the day – lost 4-2 to provisionally relegate the Leicestershire side.
However, due to Hinckley’s point total of 48 (which would have placed them comfortably safe in the Conference South), they have the highest points of any of the relegated teams. With Darlington looking likely to be relegated, Hinckley will probably be reprieved.
Mystic Rhys’ Prediction: Conference North (Step 2)
The Poppies had a dire 2011/12 season, that saw them finished rock bottom of the Football Conference, and the team that play at Nene Park provisionally are in the Conference North.
However new chairman George Rolls has issued a few warnings that their financial issues aren’t over. In particular, the decision to keep the team full time is appearing to hamper them, as well as the expensive season tickets (which are more expensive than watching Bradford City) is not bringing in the season ticket renewals as expected, the club may struggle next year, especially with a divided supporter base.
However, I predict they will take their place in the Blue Square North, although they could struggle next year in their current form.
Mystic Rhys’ Prediction: Conference North (Step 2)
If Kettering were to be relegated further than one league, Maidenhead could be the team to survive as they have the next best record. Maidenhead – from what little I know about Conference South football – appear to be relatively secure off the pitch and shouldn’t have any problems putting a team out next year if the Football Conference aren’t convinced that Kettering will be able to.
However, I do think Kettering will survive, which will see Maidenhead United Relegated.
Mystic Rhys’ Prediction: Southern Football League (Step 3)
The North/South Divide
This is where the league could be shaken up royally.
Last year, Bishop’s Stortford, a team located at the end of one of the runways at Stanstead Airport, were controversially moved into the Conference North due to being the 23rd most Southern team in the league. As the move came relatively late in the season, they were a bit frustrated and controversially awarded £12,000 to cover travel costs. This year, there appears to be similar complaints, due to Lowestoft (a team that is closer to Eindhoven than Manchester) failing to beat Hornchurch in the Isthmian League playoffs. Lowestoft would be a more Northern than 9 of the Conference North sides, so could’ve conceivably been placed in the Conference North. Instead Bishop’s Stortford, who do have first refusal on a move back South, could see themselves playing in the Blue Square North.
If they were to be moved South, newly promoted Oxford City could be placed in the Conference North due to their location. Whilst I can’t see them being too happy similar to Bishop’s Stortford, provisionally higher attendances could sway them.
One of the more interested ideas I had seen floating around would’ve seen Histon moved with Bishop’s Stortford south, and two of Oxford City, Weston-Super-Mare or Bath City moved North (which, for logistical reasons, I’d assume would be Weston-Super-Mare and Bath City). Whilst I quite like that notion, I can’t see it happening.
Mystic Rhys’ Prediction: Bishop’s Stortford moving back South, with Oxford City playing in the Conference North