League structure changes for Devon football
The challenges and complexities of organizing a football season are nothing new to Peninsula League Secretary Phil Hiscox, but despite the recent inclement weather, the schedule is developing well as we head into the holiday season.
Hiscox oversees the management of two peninsular divisions, East and West, and the big fuss on the east side of the divide is an intriguing title race that could still involve seven or eight clubs.
Okehampton Argyle are leading the way but they are being hotly pursued by Crediton United, Ivybridge Town, Brixham and a host of other clubs who could easily build serious form in the second half of the season.
At the bottom of the division, Bridport and Elburton Villa currently occupy the bottom two places but both are doing much better than previous contenders.
“Over the summer, I made a conscious decision to pack a fuller game schedule for the first three months of the season,” Hiscox said. “The idea was to sack November and December because of the World Cup and the clashes that the use of the clubhouse could entail.
“The weather over the last two weeks played into this plan so we were quite lucky. Looking at the forecast I am confident that the rain will ease over Christmas and most of our celebratory games will be fine.
“The top of the East Division is very tight and you also have the likes of Bovey Tracey, Newton Abbot and Axminster who have all shown they are able to put together a number of good results.
“From a competitive perspective, I’m very happy with how things have gone. Bridport and Elburton are the last two but both already have double points while Stoke Gabriel has struggled terribly in the last couple of seasons. It’s great for us because we want competitive football.”
Beyond the peak of this season, the Peninsula League is preparing for a change in structure that will completely transform the nature of football in the South West.
Currently, the two divisions of the Peninsula compete at the same level in the pyramid, and there are two divisions in the Western League. Five new divisions with a different structure are planned.
“The two divisions of the Peninsula will go away, as will the two divisions of the Western League,” Hiscox said. “The clubs will now form five divisions, each limited to a maximum of 18 clubs.
“Right now there are three divisions at level 6 and only one at level 5. The restructuring will bring two divisions to level 5 and three to level 6.
“Rather than having Mousehole to Keynsham in Step 5 there will be a Premier North and a Premier South. The Premier North will roughly run from Keynsham to Bridgwater and the Premier South from Wellington to Mousehole in the Cornish Widespread.
“Below this there will be three divisions that will be assigned geographically. The West Division will be practically similar to the Peninsula League West, Central will be the Peninsula League East and the current Western League Division One will be for the East Division.
“The extra places could be available to teams in the Devon League, Somerset League and St Piran League, as well as some Bristol-area teams who were formerly Western League clubs.
“The Steering Committee has worked very hard to finalize the proposals and a kick-off meeting is scheduled for March 16th in Sandy Park. All clubs will be invited and the final composition will be decided at the end of the season once we know the final standings of the teams.
“The opening meeting will also decide on the league officials, league rules and all the legal stuff needed, so a big couple of months for local football.”