March 9 2018: Wooing with intent

If Mothers’ Day weren’t so obviously imminent, you’d swear it was St Valentine’s.

The Northern Premier (Evostik) League has issued a statement on their clubs’ vote to have an east/west split at step 4 next season. Yesterday’s blog reported the decision.

In truth it’s more like a billet doux – Billy who? – to Ebac Northern League clubs, at best a clumsy courting ritual and at worst something rather less subtle.

The statement talks much of the NPL’s “integrity” and how it would be boosted “by making membership a more attractive proposition for clubs in the North-East.”

Clearly NPL chairman Mark Harris looks in the mirror and likes what he sees. He hopes, he says, that North-East clubs “will think again about how attractive joining the NPL actually is.”

“Clearly we want to re-think the integrity of our boundaries and we do want to get clubs coming up from the Northern League because our boundaries have gone very much further southand that’s a trend we want to reverse.”

Attractive, eh? Well they do say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder but Tony Incensao’s Non League Forum, usually highly dependable and based on the FA’s own projections, has assessed the east division’s likely make-up in 2018-19.

Obviously it would depend upon the ENL’s top two  – Morpeth Town and Marske United, he guesses – and they’d be the only North-East clubs. Others would include Peterborough Sports, Lincoln United, Splading, Stamford, Loughborough Dynamo and Gresley. The last two are in far-off Leicestershire, the others in Lincolnshire going on Cambridgeshire.

Given the unrelenting North-East winters, many of those games would probably end up being mid-week fixtures – just the job if you’ve a 6am start next morning.

Some, of course, might suppose the NPL’s approach a little less subtle than simply wooing. However it’s described they really have no need.

By insisting that clubs who decline promotion will instead be relegated the FA has done their job for them, and no matter how ugly and loveless the shotgun marriage might prove

In truth it reeks of coercion, of the sort of thing still practised in faraway lands. And isn’t coercion now a criminal offence?