Sent Her Forward exclusive
The Sussex County Women’s League faces yet more upheaval after bottom club Predators pulled out, leaving just eight teams in the county’s only adult league for women.
The Bognor Regis-based team finally called time on a difficult season after a constant battle to summon enough players to fulfil their fixtures.
And it means that the outcome of this season’s Women’s Division campaign is subject to yet another off-field influence, following the league’s refusal to ratify three results pending an investigation into Crawley Wasps and Worthing Town, revealed exclusively by Sent Her Forward last week.
Predators’ decision, on the eve of the first scheduled round of fixtures of the new year, to scrap their women’s team is another major blow to league administrators and clubs.
Eleven teams initially registered to participate in the league in the summer, but Cowfold and Horsham Sparrows pulled out before the season began.
And although Lewes’s former under-16 side joined the adult league after the Under-18 Division was scrapped (inevitably through lack of numbers) they merely made up for the withdrawal of Worthing Town’s junior side after the club had difficulty finding enough players to run three teams (their first XI joined the South East Counties League).
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Predators’ demise takes the total number of clubs in the women’s division down to eight, which is still two more than last season, but which in Lewes contains at least one side who would otherwise have been expected to be competing in an under-18 league.
|Senior youth and adult teams in Sussex||2013/14||2014/15 (currently)|
The mid-season withdrawal of Predators means the league table – which was amended last week pending a decision on the three matches involving Crawley Wasps and Worthing Town, who have been charged with fielding ineligible players – has been altered again after the Bognor side’s results were expunged.
Winners and losers
Effect on other clubs after Predators’ results were expunged
|Points lost||Goal difference|
|Crawley Wasps||No change||No change|
|Worthing Town||1||No change|
|Jarvis Brook||3||No change*|
|Rottingdean Village||3||No change*|
*Points awarded after Predators failed to fulfil fixture but no goals awarded
Crawley Wasps, who had yet to play Predators, move from second to top of the new-look table, while Lancing and Hurstpierpoint – who each beat them twice, scoring 34 and 27 goals respectively in the process – drop a place after those results are written off.
Also suffering are Worthing Town, who not only become the bottom club as a result of Predators’ disappearance, but also lose the only point they have won all season – a 1-1 draw with the team who have now folded.
As well as having an immediate impact on league positions, the development is another blow for women’s football in Sussex, with the county FA currently considering ways of persuading more clubs to enter its prestigious Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup and the county league caught between trying to provide a competition for all those who want it and maintaining the quality and credibility of the league that hosts them.
Clare Nichols, who as chairman of the SCWGFL and women’s development officer with Sussex FA is enduring a double headache, told Sent Her Forward earlier this season: “Within any women’s county league you will get teams who will play in it because it is the level of competition they want and those who play in it because they want to compete for promotion because they want to progress up the pyramid.
“In the league season, those teams will inevitably meet, and the difference will be reflected in the scorelines.”
But with the under-18 division scrapped because of insufficient interest, and some other clubs struggling to put out teams each week, it is going to take some imaginative thinking to stave off the looming crisis.
Predators’ plight was evident, even as the season began.
The Bognor club had appointed a new manager to try to revive their fortunes after finishing bottom of the six-team league last season.
Charlie Bye, who took over the club in the summer, virtually rebuilt the team, with only four of his squad having risen through the club ranks.
But they still had to call off their opening fixture, against Hurstpierpoint, after Bye had only seven players available.
They did honour their next fixture – Lancing’s first as a club, at their prestigious ground at Sussex FA’s Culver Road headquarters – but could muster only nine players and they were comprehensively beaten 14-0.
Bye was rightly proud of those who did turn up and competed valiantly against Lancing’s young, energetic players, telling Sent Her Forward his team were happy to play, even if there were only eight or nine of them.
“They love playing football. It would be a shame to not play,” he said. “[But] a lot of the ladies work. Some have got themselves jobs, and some work Sundays.”
His comments will no doubt be echoed by plenty of other managers, not only in Sussex but of grassroots clubs throughout the country – only a week ago Sent Her Forward revealed the demise of Gosport Borough, who had been playing under the FAW Premier League umbrella and still folded.
For the sake of the next generation of women’s football, which has at the pyramid’s apex the tantalising promise of a semi-professional Super League that previous age groups could only dream about, those conundrums need solving very soon.