The Isle of Wight Football League are to hold a crisis meeting next week to discuss the future league structure, writes Allan Snagg, Sports Reporter.
The meeting - in the Three Archbishops pub in Brighstone - will address major concerns raised by Island clubs about the recent decision by the IOW Tuesday Afternoon League to increase the number of divisions from 12 to 2 and allow games to be played on any day of the week.
League Chairman Mervyn Gibber received so many letters of complaint from clubs that he sought expert advice from Albert 'Bert' Albertson, 87, who played 6 games for Bournemouth reserves in the 1950s and now lives 'Back of the Wight' in Brook.
Albertson said that he couldn't remember how many divisions they had in the league Bournemouth reserves played in, or whether he even played any league matches or if perhaps they might have been friendlies or cup games. But he was sure that there couldn't have been as many as 12 divisions - especially for friendlies and cup games - so he thought it might be best to have a meeting. What were they meeting about again? Potholes?
Club representatives will vote on the proposal to reduce the divisions. Because the upstairs room at the Three Archbishops is not big enough to house representatives from all the Island's 44 teams, the League Steering Committee - made up of the Gibber brothers Mervyn, Hereward and Lanty - has instituted a voting system whereby the teams will form 'voting colleges', a representative from each of which will attend the meeting and submit the votes from the college. For instance, one college consists of Brighstone and Brook Wanderers, Ryde United, Winker Town, Slidder Albion and Slyde Academicals and Eric Dudd, owner of Slyde Academicals, will attend and submit the votes from all the teams in his college. The composition of each college was drawn at random; it was felt by the Gibber brothers that they should avoid geographical groupings, as undue influence might be brought to bear by vested interests. For example, there have been issues in the past when Yarmouth Villa, 'The Harbourers', who are sponsored by Yarmouth Vests Ltd, wanted their players to wear Yarmouth Vests' vests during pre-match kickabouts. Obviously, if geographical colleges were employed, there would be more opportunities for these types of commercial pressure to be brought to bear. To show how much they wish to avoid commercial pressures, the Steering Committee have obtained the room at the Three Archbishops - owned by Lanty Gibber - at a special rate of hire for the crisis meeting.
Phil Trumpet, chairman of Calbourne 04 FC (named after German Bundesliga team Shalke 04 by founder Hans Unterbung), outlined his concerns:
"If this proposal is implemented, we will have 2 divisions of 22 teams playing each other twice, plus the 3 cup competitions. Member clubs will face a fixture list more demanding than that of Manchester United or AC Milan. With the existing structure we knew our opponents inside out, travelling was minimised and stability was the watchword, not chaos."
However, Phil Trumpet's critical blast was not echoed by Maurice Impetigo-Snetterton, chairman of Ventnor St Boniface. Indeed, Mr Impetigo-Snetterton was keen to mute Mr Trumpet's critical fanfare.
"While we understand the fears expressed by teams like Calbourne 04, or Brading Kynge's Towne, who are worried that they will lose their identity and be swallowed up in a bigger league structure, we feel that you have to move with the times. The old structure was fine before promotion between divisions was introduced 2 years ago. But since then it has become clear that we need to change."
Mr Impetigo-Snetterton explained the complex detail of the argument underlying his views. "You see, when promotion came in, the top team from each division moved into the division above for the following season. We started with 2 divisions of 2 teams and 10 divisions of 4 teams. So now after 2 seasons with promotion, Division 1 has 4 teams in it where it used to have 2, and Division 12 has been reduced to 2 from an original 4. If this continues, Division 1 will carry on growing, while the bottom divisions will gradually empty, and we will end up with one big division of 44 teams.
"Opponents of the restructure have to see that this will be worse than the new proposal", he continued. "The new proposal is a decent compromise. The fact that my company, Impetigo-Snetterton Letterboxes Ltd, is set to sponsor the new two-division set-up, is neither here nor there."
There are those who favour another solution, like Brian Twelvetrees, chairman of Wootton Alexandra (named after Crewe Alexandra by founder and Crewe fan Frank Limmydear). He would like to see a more radical change within the present structure. "Why not introduce relegation as well as having promotion, like they have in other leagues around the world?" urged Twelvetrees. "This idea that Island football is all about success and not failure is plain daft. Someone's got to lose. Crewe, our idols, have always lost, are always losing now, and will always lose. This way, the numbers of each of the 12 divisions could be preserved, along with the opportunity for teams to progress."
League Secretary Morris Danser is looking forward to the meeting. "I know there are many complex issues to resolve, and feelings are running high. But it is an exciting time for Island football. I just want to get it sorted. My company, Danser Print Ltd, will be printing the fixture lists."
This is a time of unprecedented turmoil and change for Island football. Read the Bugle next week to find out the outcome of the crisis meeting.