Hants League may gain from ill wind

Daily Echo: Owen Lightfoot Owen Lightfoot

BLACKFIELD & Langley chairman Owen Lightfoot believes the Hampshire Premier League will be the big winners unless football’s top brass relax the unrealistic standards required of Sydenhams Wessex clubs.

Stockbridge and Ringwood have both had matches postponed in recent weeks due to difficulties raising a side and several other clubs – Totton & Eling and Verwood among them – don’t always have a full squad.

Not only is money hard to come by in the current financial climate, but non-paying clubs are finding that players are putting work commitments above football to make ends meet. With director of football Sam Davies pumping money into the playing budget, Blackfield have bucked that trend over the past couple of years and were last term crowned Sydenhams Premier champions.

They are going strong again this season in both the league and FA Vase but, with Davies seemingly on his way out of Gang Warily, it awaits to be seen what the future holds for the Watersiders.

One thing Lightfoot can guarantee is that they won’t be over-stretching themselves financially in blind pursuit of Southern League football.

In fact he believes that unless football’s top brass are more understanding of the hardship clubs are facing, Blackfield – along with many other Wessex sides – may have no option but to return to the county ranks.

Lightfoot – a Blackfield man for nearly 50 years – said: “I’ve got a committee and everyone is looking to the future and over the next two months we will decide which way we’re going to go.

“Maybe in the next two or three years we might find ourselves in the Hampshire League or below. “Or maybe someone might read this and say there’s a club I’d like to be involved with and come forward with an offer of help.

“There are a lot of Wessex sides looking over their shoulders at the moment wondering where the money is coming from.

“Who knows, it might be a boost for the Hampshire League if they all go back there.

“Clubs are being priced out of football because everything is referred to the FA and we’re being told we’ve got to do this and that to our grounds.

“We’d planned to improve our floodlights, which all costs money, but why aren’t people looking at ideas to help clubs? The league could be run with 16 teams so there are fewer floodlit midweek games and maybe go for earlier kick-offs on Saturdays.

“But what are the leagues doing about it? What are they doing to help clubs?”

More on this story in this weekend’s Pink.

Comments (1)

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10:26am Sat 14 Dec 13

Walter K says...

What a load of complete tosh.
Advocating only 16 teams and early kick offs for the Wessex is ridiculous - it's called the football pyramid for a reason. If a club cannot operate within its' means within a certain league, it needs to find a league that it can!
Didn't hear this chap bleating last year when they paid in excess of £75k on the playing budget "buying" the title.
Don't blame the FA Mr Lightfoot, blame the poor infrastructure of your club and its' reliance on a Sugar Daddy.
What a load of complete tosh. Advocating only 16 teams and early kick offs for the Wessex is ridiculous - it's called the football pyramid for a reason. If a club cannot operate within its' means within a certain league, it needs to find a league that it can! Didn't hear this chap bleating last year when they paid in excess of £75k on the playing budget "buying" the title. Don't blame the FA Mr Lightfoot, blame the poor infrastructure of your club and its' reliance on a Sugar Daddy. Walter K

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