Locks Heath and Paulsgrove have each had appeals thrown out by the FA after being overlooked for promotion by the Sydenhams Wessex League.

Locks Heath, champions of the old Division 2, and Paulsgrove, who won the old Division 3, turned to Soho Square after having their paths blocked for ground grading reasons but with no success.

Heath's sense of injustice had intensified when the league management committee recommended that four teams Brading, Downton, Horndean and Ringwood be promoted even though they finished third, fourth, sixth and ninth respectively.

Those recommendations were passed at Sunday's SWL annual general meeting at the BAT Sports & Social Club, where the only objection was voiced by Romsey Town secretary Melvyn Finch, who said it "isn't right" to promote a club who finished ninth.

The league's top brass were quick to defend their actions, however, and said it had all been done with FA consent.

"Before we did anything at all with the (new) Sydenhams Premier Division, we got in contact with the FA and asked how far down we could go to promote clubs," SWL chairman Alf Peckham explained.

"They said that this year they would allow promotion on ground grading, so we followed FA guidelines.

"We inspected every club down to a certain level and some didn't come up to ground grading standards, so we've given a chance to those who did.

"This year we've had three clubs Winchester, Thatcham and Andover taken away from us (promoted to Southern 1) and we are losing three more Newbury, BAT and Portland from our top division.

"We had to promote clubs who had the grading, but if they finish bottom next season they will be relegated."

With a new Ryman 1 division already in place and the possibility of a sixth Step 4 division emerging in 2007/8, feeder leagues like the Wessex are being stripped of their elite clubs.

It's a trend that concerns Sydenhams officials but, as vice-chairman Ray Barnes explained, the SWL have no choice but to bend to the will of the FA.

"When we went to the FA, we were told clearly that there is no pyramid structure any more," he said.

"It means we're being cut up like pork and losing the strength of our competition. We're against it, but we're stuck with it but we've still got one of the best leagues at our level in the country."

Peckham agreed: "The pyramid system for clubs going up and down has gone out of the window. It's all about ground grading now.

"And, if a club wants to switch across to another league, all they have to do is ask the FA. That point is proved by Warminster, who are coming into our Division 1 this year. They should have been in the Western League, but they wrote to the FA asking to come over. We inspected their ground and couldn't turn them down."

Despite the influx of four promoted teams, league officials are resigned to the Sydenhams Premier shrinking from 22 to 20 clubs this season.

Having lost their Faraday Road home, the best that troubled AFC Newbury can hope for is Division 2 football playing on a school pitch.

And the sands of time are fast running out for BAT, whose Southern Gardens home is being sold from under them.

The league wrote to British American Tobacco requesting a stay of execution, but Peckham reported: "They wrote back and said they would make a decision in July, but that's too late. BAT won't be in the Sydenhams Premier."