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Decline of the ESL - Time for change?

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Some interesting views on here, particularly those with regard to the apparent decline of the ESL.


Is not the problem the 'win at all costs' psyche mentioned by 'Vegas'. Let's be honest, there is very little chance of any club at this level doing a Wimbledon (and please remember Woodsy, Stevenage's initial successes were heavily funded by alleged questionable individuals and means)


The 'pyramid' system put clubs under pressure to either climb to the next rug or stave off relegation.


Does promotion from one step to another mean an increasing of revenue through the gates? Probably not, and any slight increase will have been more than swallowed up by players' wages.


Is it not time for clubs at this level to re-think a way in which they have a better chance of survival and, at the same time, enjoy their football. Why not change the pyramid to a 'circle' where a group of like-minded clubs form a league where the emphasis is on enjoying a good game of football.


The model was successfully tried in the old Isthmian League (pre 1973) and those clubs wanting to progress further (Wimbledon, Maidstone etc) left with good grace and best wishes.


The existing system has seen an unprecedented number of clubs go to the wall, some by over stretching themselves financially or selling their ground to pay players. There have been mergers (another ground sold) and instances when sugar daddies have fallen out of love with the idea (or realised the costs) of taking 'Rag-a**e Rovers' to the conference and have pulled out, leaving the club in the mire. All this in vain attempt to climb the football pyramid.


Even today there is talk of at least two ESL clubs not playing next season. The FA don't seem to care. If the idea was put forward to start a league outside of the pyramid, those participating would probably be threatened with expulsion from the FA and sanctioned. What the FA does not understand is that their model, whilst possibly suiting those who can afford it at Blue Square level, is slowly killing clubs at ESL level.


As said above, the good players and young prospects will go on to better things with more ambitious clubs; this has always been the case.


A competitive league managed by the clubs for the clubs. Sensible travelling, (long midweek trips kept to a minimum in the club’s interest) and fair competition could be the saving of many small clubs in East London and Essex or on the east side of the M25.



Edited by spotteddog
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The model already exists - it's called the Northern League!

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Yes, but they are now part of the pyramid system. What I am suggesting is a league that is not part of the pyramid system for clubs who do not wish to climb the ladder.

There are many clubs, in any case, who secretly do not wish to get promoted as this will mean higher wages, more travelling and loss of the little revenue they have.

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Can't imagine any club wanting to leave the pyramid system. If that happened, i'd imagine you would have to forfeit FA Cup & Vase entries as well. Some good points made on other threads, i'd like to see the FA soften their stance on Ground Regulations at Step 5 as most clubs do struggle to finance the improvements. The other thing would be demote the ESL to Step 6 & merge them with the Olympian League allowing promotion & relegation between divisions.

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That's where the restucturing is needed. the SSML covers such a wide area, teams like Broxbourne, Haringay, Hertford Town & probably next season Ware could easily play in a merged Step 5 league with the better ESL clubs. Throw in the Essex based Ridgeons teams & you could have a half decent league.

My main point was though, the ground regs which are far too stringent for most clubs to meet. Relax them to a level where Olympian sides & the rest of ESL can compete in the same league with early Kick offs.

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only problem of course would be mid week matches,maybe we could go on to May like the intermediate leagues do,cant see the point of playing so many midweek matches then finishing mid april again,really need a step 6 league but not sure where 20 teams will come from with senior facilities,

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The reason for such a suggestion is to help club's survive. The pyramid is, in my opinion, not helping the vast majority of clubs.


Most at this level clubs lose money in the Vase and FA Cup. It costs money to enter, referee's fees, travel etc. Traveling costs are split, so even if you are at home, on gates of less than 50, you end up paying out. So where is the benefit to the clubs apart from apparent kudos?


Ground gradings are,and always have been, a joke at this level.


A league run by clubs for the clubs and not just a shift to another league or level in the pyramid.

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