Kent League chairwoman: Re-organisation is a step forward
The Kent League is set to undergo the most radical overhaul in its history as part of a shake-up of non-league football nationwide.The Kent on Sunday newspaper can confirm plans include not only expanding the league, but embracing teams from neighbouring counties.
And in a move bound to upset traditionalists, it is also almost certain to no longer be called the Kent League if plans are implemented.
But the proposals – which have yet to be approved by the Football Association – are being hailed as a positive step forward by league chiefs who believe the increase in games and competition will lead to a boom in interest levels, and bring an overdue balance to the lower leagues.
Denise Richmond, chairwoman of the Kent League, revealed the heads of Step 5 leagues – the equivalent level to the Kent League up and down the country – met last month.
She explained to Kent on Sunday: “What we’ve agreed is that there will be a re-organisation at Step 5 on a more regional basis. The plan is to geographically cut the country into 12 leagues rather than the 15 there are at the moment.
”What we are trying to do is stop leagues within leagues. In other words where clubs are a few miles apart are having to travel great distances while being in different leagues.
”Kent doesn’t suffer too badly from that at our level but there are a lot of problems elsewhere and it’s certainly an issue higher up the non-league pyramid.
“So we may end up no longer being called the Kent League and it may consist of clubs who are not from Kent.”
If the plans get to the Soho Square seal of approval they could be implemented in time for next season – although more likely a year later.
Richmond added: “I was concerned originally because I thought it was the FA playing a numbers game, but more and more I am reassured because Kent clubs want more games and more competition. I truly believe this is possibly the only way of expanding the league.
”If there are more games there will be more gate receipts and more interest. Overall at this point in time I cannot see it being anything other than positive.”
The size of the league will be a maximum of 20 and a minimum of 18 – the league is currently just 16 strong, compared to rival leagues at the same level which have as many as 24. It is thought clubs could come from neighbouring Sussex, Surrey and Essex – as well as potentially more south east London clubs.
Interestingly, the management of any new look league is likely to be more complicated. Existing management committees will be asked to bid for their region – with Kent potentially teaming up with a neighbouring league to make a joint bid.
Richmond concluded: “It’s a good step forward – as long as we get the boundary right. You can guarantee there will be someone unhappy, but overall it should be good.”
Key deciding factors in the decision will be transport links between clubs, although Richmond admits to not knowing more journeys could have a negative financial impact on clubs.
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The above article was published in the Kent on Sunday newspaper – who sponsor the Kent League - on Sunday 19th February 2006 and was reproduced inside VCD Athletic’s matchday programme for their Kentish Observer League Cup semi-final first-leg tie against Herne Bay.