East Sussex Football League scrapped - and no teams will be promoted or relegated

The entire East Sussex Football League season has been cancelled for the first time in living memory.

Monday, 30th March 2020, 3:00 pm
ESFL action between Crowhurst and Battle Baptists earlier in the season / Picture: Gary Walsh

Following last week's FA directive, the 2019/20 campaign has been scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic which has brought all football in the country to a standstill.

Fixture secretary Kevin Bray said: "It was what we expected to be honest and the majority of the clubs have accepted that was what was going to happen.

"We were actually in the middle of voting to shut it down ourselves anyway when the announcement came from the FA (that all grassroots football is concluded for the season)."

The 2000-01 season was abandoned largely because of the Foot and Mouth outbreak, although the Premier Division was completed (won by Wadhurst United).

So this is the first time all of the league's divisions haven't been completed this century and possibly even as far back as World War II, when six consecutive seasons were lost to the conflict.

It's an outcome that seemed inevitable since the FA advised on March 16 that all grassroots football in England is postponed for the foreseeable future.

The league was already well behind with its fixtures following an exceptionally wet autumn and winter, with several teams having 10 or more league matches still to play.

With the season cancelled, results are expunged so there are no winners of any of the league's six divisions.

That's a cruel blow for AFC Hollington and Hooe Sports, who were respectively on the brink of clinching the Division Four and Five titles having won all of their league games.

In the Premier Division, by contrast, Battle Baptists and Sedlescombe Rangers were level on points at the top, with both teams having played less than half of their fixtures.

Bray explained: "We were told by the FA if the season is cancelled, results are expunged and there's no automatic promotion or relegation.

"We've never done average points-per-game in the past and with some teams having 12 or 13 games to play, you can't average points out - it just wouldn't be right.

"There's still 207 league games to play. Average points is fine if teams have got one or two games to play, but there's just too many.

"But clubs can apply if they think they should be in a different division next season. The composition for next year will be set by the (league) management committee based on all the information they have to hand."

The league has decided to cancel all of its three knockout competitions, although the flagship cup - the Premier Travel Chauffeurs Challenge Cup - had been abandoned prior to the suspension due to the chronic backlog of matches.

The Hastings & District FA has also cancelled all three of its cup competitions, which were contested by teams at all levels of the East Sussex League.

As a gesture of goodwill, however, the East Sussex League will not charge teams entry fees for the league or cups in the 2020/21 campaign.

Bray said: "We've made the decision we're not going to charge teams for entry to the league or league cups next season.

"A lot of clubs haven't played many games and therefore haven't had much income. We're trying to help them, we want to keep clubs going."

With this season cancelled, the focus now switches to planning for next term, which will hopefully begin in late August or early September - subject to public health guidance nearer the time.

Bray added that he's already received four or five enquiries from clubs potentially interested in joining the league next season.

The league welcomes new teams and the deadline for applications is Friday May 1.

An AGM will need to be held to agree the composition of divisions and rules. This usually takes place in early July, but discussions have already taken place about holding it as late in July as possible.

Bray added: "At the moment we're taking every week as it comes and seeing what we can do. It's an event no-one could've predicted, and it's affecting everything and everyone."