The FA have announced a divisional structure for the South West which aims to tackle the traveling distances faced by clubs in this part of the country.
Following discussions, the new structure will be put in place for the 2023/24 season, the season after the one due to start next Saturday.
In its current stage five format, the West League pits Cornish sides such as Falmouth Town, Helston Athletic, Millbrook, Saltash United, Torpoint Athletic and Mousehole travel furthest from Keynsham Town, north of Bristol .
Such distances resulted in the loss of a midweek game between Keynsham Town and Mousehole by the Keynshams who were unable to assemble a squad to make the rescheduled trip at such short notice.
The new league as part of the “Project South West” movement will see the merger of the existing West and Peninsula leagues which have four leagues between them. They currently have one league in the fifth stage and three in the sixth stage.
The newly formed division will operate with five leagues. With two in stage five to reduce travel and costs, while there will still be three leagues in stage six with up to 18 clubs in each league rather than the 17-22 that currently fill the squad.
The FA Leagues Committee has approved the merger and restructuring of ‘Project South West’ for the 23/24 season AND the criteria to be applied in deciding ‘Movement Up’
Full statement at: https://t.co/qiF5rDKg6X@swsportsnews @TSWesternLeague pic.twitter.com/RBmqFJHqMY
— SOUTH WEST PENINSULA FOOTBALL LEAGUE (@swpleague) July 22, 2022
Phil Hiscox, Secretary of the South West Peninsula League, said: “The South West is a unique region with challenges for clubs traveling both in terms of time and distance, and more than ever in terms of cost. .
The new setup will allow previously disadvantaged clubs to work their way through the domestic league system which will be both achievable and affordable while maintaining a high standard of football for those clubs.”
The two new Step Five divisions will have 18 teams each, an increase of 16 clubs. These additional spaces will be occupied by the FOUR top-ranked clubs playing in EACH of the three existing Step Six divisions (provided they reach grade G/6 in full by March 31, and who agree in writing to comply to an F/5 by the following March.)
Clubs that are moved laterally by the FA Leagues Committee from another Stage Five competition to the new entity, either directly by the FA Leagues Committee or following a request for a lateral move. Remaining places will then be allocated to clubs below 4th in Group 1 above on a points per game basis until 36 clubs are members. It should be noted as an example that if there are two spaces left with three eligible clubs ranked 5th, using the PPG, two will receive a move up and one will not.
The new sixth stage divisions intend to have a minimum of 16 teams in each league with a maximum of 18 teams (48-54 overall).
As clubs are likely to advance to stage five, there are more vacancies in stage six. Clubs from any of the South West regional feeder leagues will be eligible to apply for promotion to Stage Six for which there is already an agreed procedure and compliance requirement in place.
The league said that in order to ensure sufficient numbers in all three divisions, it may be necessary to reduce the number of clubs due to be relegated from the existing three Step Six divisions in that single qualifying season. In the case of 16 clubs per division in stage 6, an alternative fixture may be considered as an additional Cup competition for this stage.
You can read the full statement regarding the restructuring here.