Cambridge City and Histon lodge appeals after being placed in Northern Premier League
Cambridge City and Histon are appealing the decision to move them into the Northern Premier League, Division One Midlands amid fears that it could increase the financial burden on the clubs.
Both sides, along with Soham Town Rangers locally, have been switched from the Isthmian League, North Division to the Midlands as part of the new National League Structure announced by the FA last week.
It means they face trips to the likes of Belper Town, Coleshill Town, Chasetown and Ilkeston Town, and both clubs are concerned about the subsequent implications.
It is the second new league for City in three years, having been in the Southern League Central in 2018.
“From Cambridge to Halesowen, Sutton Coldfield, all of those Midland clubs, we will probably end up needing to take coaches and when you break that down, it’s probably another £6,000 or £7,000 on top of the running costs,” said City manager Robbie Nightingale.
“We’re coming from the Isthmian North League where we haven’t had one coach. People will say you don’t need to have coaches but we don’t expect people to travel from the other side of Cambridge for two-and-half, three hours to games without supplying some sort of transport.
“We’ve been moved twice in three years so there is a league ruling that you can oppose that decision with valid reasons. I think we probably do have pretty good reasons to seek an appeal if we so wish, just purely because we’re actually moving into a new ground that is on the M11 heading towards London within three or four months.”
Histon boss Lance Key felt it was vital that supporters knew the club were trying to do something about the FA’s decision, echoing many of Nightingale’s thoughts.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable that ourselves, Cambridge City and Soham get put into this league with all the extra mileage that there will be,” he said.
“I think Howard (Wilkin) our secretary along with the chairman have come up with statistics that it is something like 38 per cent more mileage, more hours in the car, bigger round trips in general, and the finances for the club would be hit massively because of a lack of local derbies.
“I’m not sure the powers that be have really thought this through, or how geographically it works for them.
“You’ve got teams like St Neots in the Southern Central, and they are on the A1 - I’m not saying they should be in that league either, but they are closer to it than we are.
“I don’t know how they work it, or where these lines cross on the grid but we are going to appeal because we feel if we don’t then we’ve let our fans down. Also, it’s in the best interest of the football club. I’m not saying we will win, but if we don’t ask the question then we will never know.”
At present, City are groundsharing with Histon but they hope to be in their new home at Sawston by December and that would give them direct access to the M11 and a quicker route south for the Ryman League.
They are also conscious that when they were switched from the Southern League to the Ryman League it led to a lot of squad upheaval as players took into account the change in travel demands, which could be a big factor again.
“It has a big knock-on effect to everything really," said Nightingale.
“We spoke how hard it was before moving from the Southern League to the Ryman League.
"Having lost 10 players overnight with that decision, we don’t want to be in the same position where we are getting phone calls with five, six, seven or eight players saying it’s not for me any more, I can’t commit to that travelling.
“We have to bear that in mind. We also have to bear in mind our fans, volunteers and people that follow us away from home - it’s a long way to go to some of those games."
It means they have not looked at possible opponents or started forward planning.
“Before we start looking at the teams and groups of players we will come up against, it’s a question of whether it fits for us logistically as a football club and the costs we’re going to incur are so much greater than the ones we’ve incurred for the last two years," added Nightingale.
“They are very much big decisions and financial decisions which come down to have we got £6,000/ £7,000 sitting there for coach travel. It’s the things we have to weigh up and process."
Histon would have to weigh up the cost of hiring coaches, or buying or leasing a minibus.
They have already lost two players for a combination of the travel and their jobs, and have at least a further three sharing their concerns.
“This then causes another problem for the club because I know Cambridge City went through this about three or four years ago when they went through this [being moved leagues] once before,” said Key.
“Players have jobs and the football side of it is just an added token to what they do; it’s a hobby they love to do but then you have to address the length of travel you have to do.
“I go back to my days at Histon [as a player] but that was a bit different because I was used to it, as such. These guys, their job comes first and that is the most important thing.
“When you start adding in 300-mile trips on a Saturday afternoon or possibly a Tuesday night with postponements, it then becomes a different ball game.
“I don’t think it’s very fair from the FA that we, like Cambridge City and Soham, have been put in this league.”
To rub salt into the wound, the clubs have to pay to appeal the decision.