THE Peterborough League is preparing a big shake-up of its constitution to try and bring a better footballing future and tempt back clubs that recently defected to the Cambs League.
The League drew up a five-point action plan for improvement at a board meeting last week and the change could be put in place as early as next season providing they are voted in by member clubs at an AGM at the end of next month.
They intend to retain existing teams and grow the league and make it even more attractive to new teams. They also want to give teams, players and referees more games and retain existing referees.
The man behind new idea is former referee and the league’s facilities director Norman Vasey who is asking for what he calls “far reaching” proposals.
They include the introduction of a League Cup competition for the first time as well as end-of-season play-offs to create stacks of interests at all levels of the local game.
The current league set-up – made up of three senior divisions and the Combination League for reserve teams – has always been set for review after five seasons.
It has never been universally popular and it looks set to be scrapped with Vasey calling it an “impediment to future progress”.
The shake-up also involves reducing the overall number of divisions, yet attempting to attract new clubs and also trying to tempt back up to a dozen teams that have defected to rival leagues in recent times.
Vasey said: “Some of our proposals are far reaching and would have a significant impact on the structure of the league and consequently on our future.
“Our location at the confluence of five counties and having a good reputation has in the past enabled us to attract quality teams with facilities to match. These teams should assist us in retaining our Step 7 status in the National League System – an agreed board objective.
“However, this relatively high standard makes our first and second divisions more demanding for new entrants and for some existing teams who struggle at this level.
“Over recent seasons six clubs with 12 teams have sought and obtained football elsewhere, more suited to their playing strengths. Several other clubs have folded from the weight of competition. We are as a league lacking flexibility in meeting these challenges.”
In the last four seasons Chatteris Town, Manea, Wimblington, Doddington, Chatteris Fen Tigers and Benwick Athletic have quit the Peterborough set up.
One of the complaints among the lower division clubs was the lack of referees with games not covered by a league appointed officials. But Vasey insists that has all changed now with an influx of referees.
He said: “At one stage we were losing 70 per cent of the new referees in their first season but the FA Respect campaign has changed a lot of that and in the last two seasons we have not lost one new referee.”
The league don’t currently have enough fixtures to satisfy their burgeoning ranks of referees. As a result whistle-blowers are moving to other leagues for more frequent apppointments. But Vasey and his fellow board members hope they have come up with the answer - more football for all.
They include dropping the overall number of divisions to five from next season.
The top-level Premier Division will remain unchanged, but could be fed by two first divisions which will be split geographically.
Division Two and Division Three will then complete the proposed constitution with play-offs planned for all levels.
And all sides will go into the hat if a new League Cup competition gets off the ground.
Vasey added: “Fewer divisions means more games for teams while a geographic base in Division One will result in less travelling, reduced costs and more local derbies.
“Lower divisions of mainly reserve teams would enable new clubs to get established more easily and provide a more suitable level of competition for some existing clubs, thereby helping to ensure their survival.
“That would hopefully make it attractive to possible new entrants from other existing leagues.
“The League Cup and play-offs would help us meet our aims of giving more games to players and referees while the play-offs would create increased interest throughout the season.
“We need to be proactive now in both protecting our existing set up by retaining teams and attracting additional teams and income.”
But it may some time before the local clubs come back to the Peterborough League. Chatteris, Manea, Wimblington and Fen Tigers have all admitted enjoying their new venture and a return was not on the cards.
Benwick Athletic, who had three seasons of struggle in the Peterborough League but who now top Cambs Division 5D did give a glimmer hope when manager Stu Coles said; “We play all local sides at the moment but if we get promoted there will be a lot more travelling and that would have to be considered. But we are enjoying the more competitive games this season in the Cambs League.”