Project South West interview: Part two

The Toolstation Western League and the South West Peninsula League have been consulting on a plan to merge, creating a new League structure, including a new Step 5 Division, for the start of the 2023/24 season.

Friday 17th June 2022 11:00 am
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The leadership of the two Leagues conducted a joint interview on the Toolstation Western League Podcast, addressing many of the questions which supporters, volunteers, players, coaches and administrators have raised about what this proposal will mean for non-league football in the South West.

This interview is being serialised in The Journal over the coming weeks. In this second extract, John Pool, the Chairman of the Toolstation Western League, addresses the question of whether the merger has been brought about by teams from the Bristol area not wanting to travel south to play in Devon and Cornwall, a question also considered by the South West Peninsula League Secretary, Phil Hiscox.

JP: Clubs at this end of the League were obviously faced with increases in costs and travel, by the restructuring. Certainly there were players that had indicated that they were not up for travelling down into Cornwall. That created major concerns over fixture compilation midweek and such like, so everybody started to look at the logic of it. And more or less, you know, came to the conclusion that it wasn’t really workable as it stood. I think it’s fair to say that probably more noise came from this end rather than down in Cornwall, but I think the view is that it does affect both ends of the footprint. Whilst that’s not particularly prevalent at the moment, we feel that it will become prevalent in the future if it stays as it is, and that is not for us.

I mean, we believe that a new league is the answer, and that is why we will push very hard to make that happen. But yes, there is, as we speak, there’s still concern facing even next season.

We’ve met with the clubs; we’ve asked for the clubs’ support to get us through next season. We’re totally conscious now that with the allocations now being published, that everybody’s aware of what’s in front of them, I wouldn’t suggest that everybody’s going to be particularly happy about it. But you know, I just refer back to the meetings that we’ve had, and we’ve asked the clubs to support us because we believe that things will change for the 23/24 season.

PH: Can I just jump in there as well and make an additional point from the Cornish end of the travelling argument. It’s no great surprise that the clubs that have gone up first are the ones with not just the ambition, obviously, but also the financial base. At the moment the opportunities have been taken by those clubs who can afford to do the travel. There’s no problem with that, I’ve always taken the view with any club’s budget that as long as they can afford what they pay, that’s up to them. I take exception where people pay what they can’t afford, but I think we also need to be aware that the opportunities should be there for all clubs.

If a team is successful on the pitch, they shouldn’t have to be having sponsors and things in the background to decide whether they should be promoted or not. They should have the same sort of opportunities as a club in the middle, and that can only really happen if the step up is affordable. I would say that it’s not for all clubs at the moment, luckily the teams coming up this season; Torpoint and Falmouth are well supported clubs, but it wouldn’t be long before a club actually would be faced with travelling who didn’t really have the resources of those clubs.

The full interview can be heard on Episode 42 of the Toolstation Western League Podcast, which can be found online at: http://toolstationleague.com/podcasts/

Next week, Phil Hiscox and John Pool address the issue of whether continued promotion out of Devon and Cornwall will weaken competition in the South West Peninsula League, in the longer term.

Ian Nockolds

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