Non-league football is set for a major shake-up in Stages 5 and 6

Non-league football is set to undergo a major shake-up in Stages 5 and 6, with the Football Association considering a merger of the Western League and the South West Peninsula League.

If the merger is given the green light, then the five-division league of 18 teams each – perhaps dubbed the Western Peninsula League – could start operating for the following season, in 2023.

Under the proposal, there would be two Premier Step 6 divisions, one in the north and one in the south, with the teams included coming from Gloucestershire, Bristol, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. In Stage 6, there would be three divisions – East, Central and West – to replace West League Division 1, which is currently based in Somerset and Dorset, and the two the Peninsula, which are made up of teams from Devon and Cornwall.

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This means that teams currently in the Peninsula League would have the opportunity to take advantage of more Stage 5 positions that would become available at the end of next season. Torpoint Athletic and Falmouth Town have just been promoted from the Peninsula League to the Western League, with Cornwall now having six teams in the division, but Devon only having two after Tavistock and Exmouth Town were promoted to the Southern League.

The proposal was co-written by Peninsula League secretary Phil Hiscox, who said: “From the start of our season, when Odd Down from Bath refused to play in Stage 5, we knew he We also know there is a history of Cornish clubs going up but struggling to keep the trip going year after year.

“We had an urgent situation where a club from Bath didn’t want to come to Cornwall, and a longer term concern about Cornish clubs wanting to go to Bristol year after year” It’s been mentioned before, but the FA have always said ‘no’ – but with the mileage now being done by Bristol and Cornwall clubs, it was time for a review.

“Nobody else in the country is doing the Stage 5 mileage that clubs are doing now – and the FA had to accept that was a one off thing. And Keynsham Town didn’t turn up at Mousehole for a week before a crucial meeting at Wembley.

The proposal is now in consultation but, if approved, it could mean four possible promotion places in the East and West Peninsula League divisions next season. This could make the upcoming campaign very interesting.

Hiscox said: “The FA has accepted the proposal in principle and there have been numerous meetings since June. The consultation will run from the date of the FA statement to the general meetings of both leagues in the first two weeks of June.

“The plan is then for the FA to confirm it is happening and the start date. At the moment, the statement says “at the earliest 23-24”. So that’s what we’re working on. »

Torpoint’s promotion to the Western League Premier Division was confirmed when they beat Dartmouth 4-1 at home on Saturday to end the season top of the Premier Division East, eight points clear of second-placed Brixham on exactly 100 points.

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