A proposed merger of fifth and sixth tier divisions has broken down – causing fresh concerns for its member clubs this week.
A major shake-up saw the FA considering an amalgamation of two leagues, the Western League and South West Peninsula League.
Clubs were consulted over proposals to merge the South West Peninsula League with the Western League, creating a new league comprising of two divisions at step 5 and three at step 6. The plans did have the support of the FA Leagues Committee.
But now, the future of the merger between the Western League and the South West Peninsula League is in doubt after a statement was made on Monday.
The merger was suppose to happen come the end of the 2022-23 season with the merger creating the Western Peninsula League, a group of regionalised leagues covering the South West from Bristol to Lands’ End.
This was to reduction of travel time and costs was the primary reason, making football more sustainable for local clubs.
The league was due to have a five-division set-up; two Step Five divisions, the Premier North and the Premier South, along with three Step Six divisions, Division One East, Central and West. It was planned to have 18 clubs in each league.
In the statement, which was posted to the South West Peninsula League’s Twitter account, Hiscox wrote that the offer from Western League representatives to have him doing the administrative work at Step 6 would not be ‘something I could ever agree to as it is both insulting to my experience, would create a two-tier system that is unfair on the clubs, and a flagrant breach of the promise John [Pool, Western League chairman] made at the very start of this journey.
‘At the start of this journey, John Pool and I shook hands in front of witnesses at Wembley and agree a merger of equals and further, that our own ambitions would be put aside, if necessary, for the good of football and the member clubs.
‘Regrettably under that test, I feel I must now withdraw from this project as my presence is clearly a hindrance.’
Soon after the statement was released, it was announced that Peninsula League Chairman Mike Pett and proposed Welfare Officer Tracy Banfield have resigned form the Steering Committee. Keith Mann has confirmed a withdrawal of acceptance of a place on the proposed board.
SOUTH WEST PENINSULA LEAGUE STATEMENT
Following on from previous emails and discussions and your kind invitation to a teams meeting last week etc, where efforts were made by The SWP members present to reach an amicable way forward.
I have to report further. I am aware that Peter Stevenson and John Pool have spoken several times since and discussed potential solutions, but the only compromise afforded by the Western League would be for George McCaffery to do the Step 5 admin and offer myself a role doing Step 6, this is not something I could ever agree to as its both insulting to my experience, would create a two-tier system that is unfair on the clubs, and a flagrant breach of the promise John made at the very start of this journey, where he clearly stated “You have earned the right to choose what you want to do Phil”.
We would have accepted the numerical imbalance of both Officers and Directors, IF, and only IF, we could rely on his word, but sadly this is not the case.
Without any real movement from John and the WL contingent, what remains on the table cannot be looked upon as anything other than a take-over of football in the South West by the Western League, with the SWP only having 3 of 9 Officers and the Western League having Chairman, Vice Chairman, Company Secretary, Fixtures Secretary, Ground Grading Officer 8, Match Officials Director to our 3 of General Secretary, Treasurer & Welfare Officer.
If the league does go ahead with this situation (and the need behind the re-structure itself to reduce travel is accepted by us) the proposed new league will start on a negative footing which will only add to the problems of trying to marry up two existing competitions and that would not be in the best interests of any of the member dubs of either existing leagues.
At the start of this journey, John Pool and I shook hands in front of witnesses at Wembley and agreed a “merger of equals’ and further, that our own ambitions would be put aside, if necessary, for the good of football and the member clubs. Regrettably under that test, I feel I must now withdraw from this project as my presence is clearly a hindrance, whether Mr Pool also considers his own position on this is a matter for his own conscience.
WESTERN LEAGUE STATEMENT
The Board of the Western Football League can confirm that talks with representatives from the South West Peninsula League, concerning the creation of a new Western Peninsula League, have broken down.
The merger between the two Leagues was always intended to bring together the best of both Leagues and whilst a huge amount of progress has been made, talks broke down over the roles and responsibilities that will sit at the heart of the new Leagues administration. Despite the intervention of the Football Association, which we welcomed, it has not been possible to resurrect the merger. We were due to meet with representatives of the SWPL today (6thFebruary) to agree on the one outstanding issue which is the role of the football secretary. However this was pre-empted by a statement put out by the SWPL stating that they would no longer be engaging in any further discussions with the Western League.
The Western League Board strongly believe in devolving roles for fixture management, player registration and the administration of League business across a number of individuals, working collectively as a team. In this way, we have been able to support each other in times of difficulty and enable succession planning, as volunteers leave their roles. Combining these critical functions within one role is not what we believe to be good practice. As a compromise we agreed that the football secretary would handle registrations and transfers. We further offered that fixture scheduling could be managed between the football secretary and the fixtures secretary. At which point the talks broke down.
We recognise that this decision has profound implications for Clubs currently competing in the Western League Premier Division, specifically in relation to their costs of travel and for that reason we remain committed to find a solution across the South West of England. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how this might best be achieved with the Football Association, going forward.
We would like to take this opportunity to place on record our sincere thanks to all those individuals, from both Leagues, who have acted in good faith and volunteered their time and expertise, having made a genuine commitment to make this merger happen.
This is so disappointing for clubs involved, football at this level isn’t sustainable (for a lot of clubs and people) with these distances on weekday evenings etc.
— Michelle Owen (@MichelleOwen7) February 7, 2023
This is what fans said as the proposed merger of fifth and sixth tier divisions has broken down, causing concerns for clubs…
@NonLeagueMaps: If it can’t be reconciled then I think the best solution is to go ahead with the restructure without the merger. The league administration is less important than have sustainable leagues of which the current set-up is not.
@greenarmy1887: the implications for First Division clubs are underplayed here too. Top 4 (minimum) had been promised promotion, but there won’t be space for that without the merger. Same for Step 7 clubs investing huge sums/efforts to be promoted to Step 6. There won’t be space for them.
@Markpratten3: So the TSWL is only invested in this project as long as they decided who has which role and responsibility, leaving the scraps for the remaining SWPL board members. Get of your high horse and stop digging your heels in and accept you can’t have it all your own way, Embarrassing !
@JasonKilner2: Leave the structure as it is then. If the Western League continues as is it is, it will be mainly teams SW of Taunton so the remaining Bristol based teams will probably resign. See how many of the current Western League board would be interested then.
@PMW94485907: Restart the process starting at Penzance, not Bristol.
@Toroloco13: If you actually have clubs best interest at heart then listen to them!! Instead you have broken promises made to @phiscox46 at Wembley, made yourselves chair/vice chair etc (no vote), created an unequal board and refused to negotiate. That is a takeover not a merger!!
@RobSimons78: My club has played in both leagues. From my experience as a fan @swpleague was much better run than @TSWesternLeague. This is no better administrator than Phil Hiscox!
@PaulAllen1961: It’s odd that you fail to mention the proposed make up of the nine person board. 6/3 I believe in Western League favour, and with split secretarial duties. That’s a takeover not a merger.
@RobSimons78: Western league couldn’t run a bath!!
@StBFCPaul: Come on Western league, get a grip of this situation, and make sure the right thing is done for all the clubs concerned. 🙄
@MarkVanMan72: In other words, if we don’t get our own way, we don’t want to know.
@JdeSilva92: So @TSWesternLeague and @swpleague officials care more about a handful of people’s roles and egos than all of the step 5 and 6 clubs in the whole South/South West of the country. Imagine my surprise.
@neillane94: Dear oh dear… opinions aside, this really isn’t looking good nor healthy for this level of football. Let’s hope for a positive outcome, hopefully with more of the best interests of clubs, spectators and officials put first.
@MartinN03430230: Selfish officials putting themselves before the good of their member clubs??
@JoeMacca10_: Who ever is in charge of the western leagues needs to be sacked anyway. Who ever thought it would be a good idea to put Devon sides in the same league as Bristol sides it’s absolutely mental behaviour
@brown_jake11: Stinks of egos getting in the way here instead of what they’re both actually trying to achieve 🦖
@SwGroundhopper: Not surprised by this at all and what I’ve read from the @swpleague. The WL is shocking. Last season they made a cornish club play in Bristol wed eve then 48 hours later made them fulfill a Friday evening fixture that had been sorted since the fixtures had been released!
@TomPott78040451: The western league management are a bloody shambles run by idiots Well done Phil and team from the SWL
@DmitriusOld: Jeez. Appears they tried a takeover, got caught, and chucked toys out of cot.
@Parksy17: Love a trip to Cornwall anyway 🙃
@Titansreach7791: GREED… don’t be fooled… GREED