Up in the world, today’s Ebac Northern League annual meeting is held at Alnwick Castle, courtesy of the Duke of Northumberland and through the good offices of Alnwick Town. 7 09 train from Darlington to Alnmouth, slightly hairy four-mile walk into Alnwick, breakfast at Barter Books – once the town’s rather grand railway station.
The sad irony, of course, is that as things stand Alnwick are relegated. They bow out in style. Some more snippets from the annual occasion:
*The litter bins near Alnmouth station carry slogans promising “Free eye tests”. At least I think that’s what it said. The meeting’s sponsored by Specsavers (honest).
* League chairman Glenn Youngman looks even happier than usual: his ninth grandchild had arrived at 8 40am, beating the eighth by three days. “Just two more for a team,” says Glenn.
* League media and PR manager Mike Snowdon is also in Barter Books, clutching a volume by David Nobbs, who wrote the Reggie Perrin stories. “I could buy half the shop,” says Mike.
* The most expensive sports book I see is a history of the Royal and Ancient from 1754-1900, a snip at £460. No sign of the league’s wonderful 125th anniversary history but I still have copies of that for just £3.
*Ashington secretary and social media guru Gav Perry is elected to the league management committee, beating Tow Law secretary Steve Moralee in a second ballot. “It reduces the average age to about 67,” says George Courtney, the president.
* George estimates at the start that the meeting will last 44 minutes. He’s only an hour and nine minutes out.
* Prize money’s doubled for the two preliminary rounds of next season’s FA Cup, to be split 75/25 between winner and loser.
* Good of the league to make a presentation to Alnwick secretary Cyril Cox, in recoignition of 50 years in football administration – much of it travelling on the bus from his home in Newcastle.
* Only the first division winners will be promoted next season. At step 6 – second division level – it’ll be the winners and the nine second placed clubs with the best points-per-game ratio. The FA’s so quickly moving the goalposts I’m not sure I understand the rest. Does anyone?
* A benefit of no longer formally being involved is that there’s no need to wear a tie. Most of the league committee look scumfished. Consett chairman Frank Bell might win the best dressed delegate award, a 75-way tie for worst.
* It’s so warm that folk recall the annual meeting at Tow Law (of all places) a few years back, which on a boiling day was held on the pitch. Best not go outside at Alnwick, it might frighten the duke’s hosses.
*North Shields chairman Alan Matthews again draws attention to the misuse of white passes – issued to club chairman, secretary and treasurer – especially by team managers at games in which they have no involvement. Alan’s also unhappy at the number of people claiming to be “media.”
*Alnwick have appealed to the FA against their relegation, apparently arguing that other clubs havem’t their own grounds. Newcastle University, second in the Northern Alliance, have also appealed against their failure to be promoted.
* According to today’s agenda, Darlington RA are relegated to the North Riding League. They’re not happy about that, either.
* One of the lads has a share in Its Pandorama, out in the 3 50 at Hexham, and recommends an investment. It’s sixth.
* Morpeth Town chairman Ken Beattie, pressganged into promotion, makes a gracious little speech about the joys of Northern League football. He’s not looking forward to Peterborough and Loughborough next season.
* League secretary Kevin Hewitt’s report puts it differently: “”It will do little to help the UK government meet their target for greenhouse gas emissions.
* All clubs will have to have defibrillators by the end of 2020. Grants are available.
* With just three votes against, clubs will be required to start matches with 1-11 next season. Washington got a bit carried away in 2017-18.
* The meeting’s in the guest hall where, happily, the minstrels’ gallery remains onoccupied. Not even Whitley Bay’s yon-end choir.
* Though the league is trying to address the postage issue, FA rules still decree that a programme will be compusory in both divisioins in 2018-19. They probably won’t be in the Football League.
* On the playing front, the main topic of conversation is the number of well known players being signed by Hebburn Town.
* Stockton Town chairman Martin Hillerby is conspicuous by absesnce – there’s a civic reception for the Vase finalists back home.
* The new season kicks off on August 4, the FA Cup the following week.
* I don’t fall asleep.