Clubs face challenge to meet new standards

Anglian Combination honorary secretary Keith Johnson believes the suspension of the League's FA-accredited Step 7 status is a wake-up call for some Premier Division clubs.

Fewer than the benchmark 75pc of Premier Division clubs meet the required new ground standards as set out by the FA and now have until March 31 next year to rectify the situation or face being relegated to Division One.

It's believed five top-flight teams fall short of the standards – which primarily require clubs to provide four shower heads in each changing facility – namely Blofield, Cromer, Hempnall, Spixworth and Norwich St Andrews.

'This is something that is affecting leagues around the country,' said Johnson, who revealed the situation at the league's recent AGM.

'It is a necessary step to maintain high standards in the top division and could be seen as a wake-up call.

'We realise it is a tight timescale for clubs but they know what they've got to do.

'If they are not up to speed they will be left behind. We have identified the clubs we believe do not meet the required standards and we are waiting to have that ratified by the FA,' added Johnson.

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'There are no immediate consequences of the league having its Step 7 status suspended but it's certainly something we do not want to lose.

'It brings with it a lot of kudos and standing and there are also financial implications to consider.'

Member clubs endorsed the FA report by acknowledging the need to maintain high ground standards within the league and unanimously supported the management committee in ensuring all clubs met the necessary ground standards.

The FA have confirmed they will assist clubs to source funding through the Football Foundation to achieve these improvements.

All clubs were in attendance at the AGM and elected two new clubs as members with effect from next season – Hingham Athletic and Yelverton.

The league will also commence dialogue with the Ridgeons League regarding the issue of club movement between the leagues in a structured fashion, as some Ridgeons reserve teams are looking to return to the Anglian Combination.

A new Trophy in memory of the late Jim Harpley, former league secretary, was presented to UEA winners of Division Four.

Simon Mower was presented with an award for referee of the year, while Mel Harbour of Mattishall FC was named as the league's club secretary of the year.

It was announced that the sponsorship arrangements with Gleave and Associates had now concluded and the league are actively seeking a new sponsor.

The new season commences on Monday, August 15 with the showpiece Don Frost Cup, which will see Cromer Town take on Spixworth United.