South West Peninsula League announce 2018/19 line-up

South West Peninsula Football League logo

So, the dust has finally settled and the 2018/19 line-up for the South West Peninsula League has been announced. With the planned shake-up scheduled to change the format in Devon and Cornwall only a year away, the FA’s Leagues Committee (known as LC in FA circles) showed a lot of common sense in allowing the league to deviate from the FA’s original ruling (to be found in the FA Handbook within paragraph 3.2 of the Regulations For The Operation Of The National League System). This specified a maximum of 16 clubs at Step 7 (that’s Division One to you and me). Since that statement, the FA modified their stance to allow extra flexibility which has been to the Peninsula’s benefit.

Paragraph 5.3 then stated “All promotions and relegations between Steps 5, 6 and 7 must be authorised by the LC. All proposed Club movements must be submitted to the LC by no later than 8 May 2018.” Well, the weather put paid to that deadline. It also meant that the FA had to delay other decisions which included the fact that Stoke Gabriel had missed the deadline for installation of floodlights – a Step 6 (Peninsula Premier Division) requirement. There were mitigating circumstances that hindered Stoke Gabriel’s plans and it came as a surprise to many that the FA decided that further failure to install would be met with a fine. This is because paragraph 5.6 specifically states “Failure to install floodlights in working order by 30th September following promotion will result in a sanction being imposed at the discretion of the League of which the Club is a member. If by 31st March in the year following promotion the floodlights are still not installed then the Club will be a relegated Club and be dealt with accordingly.” So, there was no hint of a pecuniary sanction, only relegation.

Stoke Gabriel asked the league whether they could be relegated. This could have been a case of “be careful what you wish for” because a club has no right to decide which section of Division One they join. Prior to Stoke’s request, it appeared that Division One East was at its maximum of 20 clubs, Torquay United Reserves having been offered a place once Braunton missed out on promotion. So Stoke may have unwittingly been heading for a season in Division One West – even more so because their Premier Division place was offered to the next eligible (and willing) candidate – Elburton Villa – who finished third in Division One West.

No doubt Stoke were mightily relieved that Torquay United’s dalliance with entering the league faltered just hours before the Peninsula AGM. United are set to defer the relaunch of a competitive reserves team by a year when their under-18s will be older. United's decision created a place in Division One East that has now been filled by Stoke Gabriel with Elburton Villa accepting promotion from the West.

So, what happened to all the clubs vying for promotion to the Premier and those applying to join Division One?

Newton Abbot Spurs withdrew their application for promotion from the East at the eleventh hour despite finishing second. The other two applicants, Crediton United and Ilfracombe Town, missed out on the requisite top three finish so no-one was in the frame to move up from the East.

The West had no fewer than nine clubs applying for promotion. St Blazey were an early casualty due to ground grading but the rest battled it out with Millbrook winning the West and, with it, promotion. Third placed Elburton Villa were greeted with unexpected elevation thanks to Stoke Gabriel dropping down whilst Mousehole, Liskeard Athletic, Porthleven, St Dennis, Wadebridge Town and Wendron United all missed out due to league position.

Elsewhere, with leagues playing throughout May, there was much uncertainty as to who might gain a foothold within the National League System. With the Cornwall Combination’s Carharrack being denied by ground grading considerations, the only side in with a chance of promotion from a Cornish competition were Devon side Bere Alston United of the East Cornwall League. Despite finishing fourth their application was successful because the sides ahead of them were all reserve outfits.

The Devon & Exeter League had four clubs in the frame and it soon became apparent that Tiverton-based Elmore would succeed and they did so in style winning the competition by 14 points over fellow contenders Cronies. The other applicants, Newtown and Exwick Villa, came third and fourth respectively. Elmore are no strangers to the Peninsula and their playing squad and management are also well known, many having been part of the successful Tiverton Town Reserves side that was dismantled a year ago.

The other two competitions were much less clear cut. In fact both went to the wire.

In the North Devon League Braunton were handily placed. Unlike many Peninsula clubs they were not too badly affected by the weather, their only significant disruption being in January through to mid-February. The surprise was that they lost their final three games and finished fourth. All the more disappointing as their league record since the start of the year was P15 W10 D3 L2. It may be a blessing in disguise because Braunton will likely be in the frame for a move to Step 7 in a year’s time when the new formation is announced and it will be a maximum of 16 clubs involving less travelling than if they had joined the 20-strong Division One East.

The two applicants from the South Devon League, Kingsteinton Athletic and Waldon Athletic were both in the frame as we entered May and there was the added spice of them still having to play each other. Originally scheduled for Saturday May 12 this date was changed once Waldon were through to the final of the Herald Cup which was played on May 11. By the time the rearranged fixture was played, on May 24, it was Kingsteinton’s last game. They were in second spot with 55 points whereas Waldon were third on 54 points with one more game remaining – away to champions Ashburton Athletic. Despite having home advantage, Kingsteinton were beaten by Waldon 3-1 who celebrated their promotion in style by completing the double over Ashburton in the final game of the season, winning a seven goal thriller 4-3.

So Division One East has been swelled from 17 to 20 clubs by the inclusion of Elmore, Stoke Gabriel and Waldon Athletic. Division One West, however, will run with only 15 clubs following the relegation of Illogan RBL (who had requested not to be reprieved) and the promotion into the Premier of champions Millbrook and third-placed Elburton Villa. Bere Alston United are the lone addition.

The full line-up is:-

Premier Division (20) Division One East (20) Division One West (15)
Bodmin Town Alphington Bere Alston United
Callington Town Appledore Bude Town
Camelford Axminster Town Dobwalls
Cullompton Rangers Bovey Tracey Holsworthy
Elburton Villa Brixham Liskeard Athletic
Exmouth Town Budleigh Salterton Ludgvan
Falmouth Town Crediton United Mousehole
Godolphin Atlantic Elmore Penzance
Helston Athletic Galmpton & Roselands Plymouth Marjon
Ivybridge Town Honiton Town Plymstock United
Launceston Ilfracombe Town Porthleven
Millbrook Liverton United St Blazey
Newquay Newton Abbot Spurs St Dennis
Plymouth Argyle Reserves Sidmouth Town Wadebridge Town
Saltash United St Martins Wendron United
St Austell Stoke Gabriel  
Sticker Teignmouth  
Tavistock Torridgeside  
Torpoint Athletic University of Exeter  
Witheridge Waldon Athletic  

If events of 12 months ago are anything to go by, the above MAY not be the same as at the start of the new campaign. Hopefully the resignation of Penryn Athletic alongside Totnes & Dartington after last year’s AGM was a one-off and not the start of a trend.

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