Thetford Town the big beneficiaries as FA seek to balance non-league pyramid
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015
Even Thurlow Nunn League officials were surprised that Thetford Town received a relegation reprieve, writes Gavin Caney.
Swaffham Town and their rivals finished in the bottom three of the Premier Division but were spared from the drop thanks to the FA's annual end-of-season review of the non-league pyramid.
While Swaffham – who finished third-from-bottom – were widely expected to be granted a lifeline with basement boys Whitton United going down and champions Norwich United taking promotion, it was the decision to save Thetford which caused the biggest shock with three teams having already been confirmed as moving up into the top-flight from the second tier.
A Thurlow Nunn League spokesman said: 'We are slightly surprised because we didn't expect it. We'd only been talking to Thetford the week before as far as a reprieve was concerned.
'They were desperate to retain their position but we never thought for a minute that it was going to happen as we didn't expect two clubs to get a reprieve.'
Twenty teams competed in the Eastern Counties set-up's top-flight last season with one less operating in its second tier.
Next term 21 sides will play in both divisions as a result of the FA's drive to redress a lack of sides at Step Six (Thurlow Nunn First Division level) of the semi-professional ladder.
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That desire has seen the English game's governing body allow four Step Seven clubs to join the Thurlow Nunn First Division – even though they didn't all actually finish in promotion positions.
Essex & Suffolk Border League Coggeshall Town (first) and Holland (third), Suffolk & Ipswich League Framlingham Town (fifth) and Kershaw (Cambs) League Premier Wisbech St Mary (seventh) can now start making further plans for Thurlow Nunn League football next term – as can First Division March Town United who have had their application for a sideways switch into the United Counties League (UCL) – where Wisbech Town play – turned down by the FA.