To much dismay but to no surprise whatever, the FA has awarded the running of the new step 4 league in the north to the Northern Premier League.
So the Northern League, the world’s second oldest, will irredeemably and irrtrievably whither. So St George’s Day, celebrated for deeds of gallantry and national character, will be remembered for cowardice and gutless predictability.
So the Ebac Northern League will continue to leak good clubs, with good grounds, with little or no incentive to stay and and with none, unless voluntarily, likely to join from above.
So tall poppy syndrome strikes once again, so the strong are brought down – perhaps the FA thought today’s date especially appropriate – so an institution catastrophically and culpably crumbles.
The immediate upshot is that the Nothern League will lose three more first divisioon clubs at the end of next season, when almost certainly none will come the other way.
If in time the league is to continue with two divisions at all, it will have to take more clubs from step 7 – the Wearside League and Northern Alliance – which, certainly in the Wearside, already struggle to meet minimum numbers, where ground grading is pretty much a thing of the past and which the FA has effectively cut adrift from the National League System. More of step 7 tomorrow.
All this, remember, is in the name of cutting costs and reducing travel, the watchwords when the FA began its wretched and risible restructuring 19 – yes nineteen – years ago.
All this was said to be about promoting and protecting leagues, not least those administratively and financially sound and with long decades of experience and expertise.
What wretched timing that as other leagues clearly struggled, the Northern League should flourish.
It probably can’t be argued that the NPL (Evostik) doesn’t meet most of those criteria, but what on earth does it bring to the party that the Northern League can’t?
What were the men in blazers thinking of when they made their game-changing decision? Was there something else?
The Northern League was represented at the tendering meeting – pitch and toss, more like – by chairman Glenn Youngman, secretary Kevin Hewitt and treasurer Frank Bell. I know that they worked very long and very hard on their presentation and have no doubt whatever that it was a very good one.
They, in particular, will be devastated. For how much longer will good men stay to watch the league atrophy, to see so much hard work – not least by clubs themselves – count for so little?
How long before people begin to suspect that the game is over, and that the Northern League is going to hell in a handcart?
A final point for now: in my 20 years as Northern League chairman, certainly in the last 16, I was a caustic, constant and it’s to be hoped constructive critic of the restructuring exercise. It didn’t tick boxes, it made them out of ticky-tacky; it frequently didn’t solve problems, it created more.
It was always – always – going to be a case of devil take the hindmost.
Since 2016 the league management committee has been more diplomatic, no doubt wisely. Let’s not call it appeasement, for that word remains perjorative, but relations were no doubt more cordial. A report of a meeting with the FA stated as much.
To what end? The mighty dragon, if not yet slain, has been brought terminally to its knees. And the saddest, the most damning, the most most diabolical thing of all?
On a feast day said no longer to have much meaning, far too many in football will bloody well rejoice.