The Sussex County League could be down to as few as four teams next season after the top four in the current campaign were awarded promotion.
Champions Lancing, Crawley Wasps, Rottingdean Village and Hurstpierpoint have all been offered promotion to the South East Counties League Division 1 West – even though the season technically has not finished.
A ruling still has to be made on whether Hurstpierpoint’s on-off clash at home to Rottingdean should go ahead after the latest attempt to stage it was abandoned when work began on the home side’s pitch.
The Women’s Division minor placings hinge on the outcome of the game: the winner would finish second, while a draw would leave Crawley as runners-up.
But in the meantime, the Joint League Committee, which determines promotion and relegation places between the regional and county leagues, has offered all four – three of whom are in their first season – the opportunity to move up.
If they all take promotion, it would halve the size of the current division, and although Burgess Hill Town 2nds would join it after being relegated from the SECWFL, county league spokesman Paul Preston says another of the remaining sides, Jarvis Brook, have indicated they will not be taking part next season.
The league is still waiting to hear whether Crawley Town and Horsham Sparrows, who moved to Surrey’s Under-18 League last season when the proposed Sussex one collapsed, will return to their home county to boost the women’s division to six sides.
As a county league, at the bottom position of the pyramid, we should not be stopping any clubs with ambition from wanting to progress – Paul Preston, Sussex County Women and Girls Football League
Without any under-18 league in Sussex, there is no prospect of promotion this season from below.
Preston told Sent Her Forward there was also little likelihood of any of last season’s under-16 clubs doing the double leap that Lewes did last season, straight into the Women’s Division.
He said champions Southdown’s players would become part of the Burgess Hill set-up, runners-up Bexhill United would be absorbed into the club’s two existing senior sides and Royal Tunbridge Wells had folded.
The fourth club, Hawks Youth Withdean, were joining Mile Oak, who are understood to be considering a step up. That would create a division of up to seven teams, but more applications to join are still possible.
Preston said: “As a county league, at the bottom position of the pyramid, we should not be stopping any clubs with ambition from wanting to progress. However, we do need to consider the teams remaining in our league and the future of the competition.
“We will be pursuing with the FA and the other leagues in the south-east pyramid the need to consider promotion numbers in the future, as well as having some guarantee that in exchange for promoted teams, others will be relegated.”
The league spokesman, who has also been carrying out the roles of competitions and fixtures secretary, said even if the division were smaller next season, there would be no lack of fixtures.
“We will have an appropriate number of league matches so that the schedule for next season is not overstretched, having to use midweek games or double-headers to get the season finished,” he promised.
But he insisted there was no question of the Sussex league merging with Surrey, which he said had been the subject of speculation.
“Merging with Surrey is not a viable option for us because of the travelling aspect and the knock-on effect it may have for future seasons.
“By eliminating the county leagues we lose the local link with youth teams, and the appeal of the county leagues diminishes at the prospect of three-hour round-trips for certain matches.
“We have issues converting youth teams to adult teams currently, so to merge would only exacerbate the problem.”
But Preston did reveal that there was a possibility of the two county leagues running a League Cup across both, depending on the number of teams participating in Surrey next season.
Sussex clubs are also likely to get the chance to play in more cup competitions within their own county next season.
Preston said: “The expansion of Sussex County FA women’s competitions, which we are hoping all our member clubs will support, will also add to the fixture list, as well as our own League Cup.”
New Sussex FA deputy chairman Gareth Flemington told Sent Her Forward there would be two more adult knockout competitions in 2015/16, with a Sussex County Trophy alongside the existing County Cup plus a plate competition for those knocked out in the early rounds.
After previous complaints about the composition and format of the County Cup, county officials have acted to provide tournaments that should prove more competitive – but Flemington warned: “These will only work if everyone enters them.”
There would also be a new cup tournament for under-16s.
Sussex County League 2014/15 Sussex County League 2015/16 (possible)
|Crawley Wasps||Burgess Hill Town 2nds|
|Jarvis Brook||Horsham Sparrows|
|Lewes Dev||Mile Oak|
|Rottingdean Village||Worthing Town|