Reported confirmation of The FA's rubber-stamping of the CML's new Step 7 "regional" set-up was, understandably, received very favourably in this quarter; appearing as it did to fully vindicate our Club Committee's original 2009 decision to ship-out from the Humber Premier League and move to pastures new.
You can therefore imagine the reaction in these four quarters to reports on various message boards and websites recently, which suggested that the HPL has received similar grading for 2011/12; especially given the higher costs incurred by our CML membership over the past two seasons.
Having moved competitions to supposedly quicken the pace of progress, to be left thinking after two years of escalating expense that we are basically no further on is particularly galling. However, as always with such matters, things are never so simple.
For a start, it would appear that both competitions have actually received "Provisional" Step 7 status. This in effect means that both have 75% of its membership who meet the required criteria and both need to get the remaining 25% membership up to speed by 31st March 2012 to ensure full Step 7 status is eventually granted.
However, whereas both North and South divisions in the CML have gained this accreditation (previously only the Supreme Division boasted Step 7 status) only the Premier Division in the HPL has achieved it; Division 1 remains "below the parapet" as it were.
In addition, the Ground Grading Requirements set out by the CML are more in line with The FA's Category H requirements from 2010/11 and thus geared more towards helping clubs eventually attain Step 6 status, be that in the Northern Counties East League or the East Midlands Counties League.
These requirements are more in tune with our aim to climb as high up the "football ladder" as is possible for a club of our very limited resources. They are also somewhat higher than the basic Step 7 guidelines issued by the FA last year. These do away with any need for grounds to be enclosed or to have any hard standing (which Low Farm boasts) or covered accommodation for spectators (which Low Farm boasts...of sorts!). The pitch perimeter need only be rope and rail and there is no requirement for fixed entry points. Looking at these guidelines, not only does it suggest a "lowest common denominator" feel but while it is no surprise that the HPL Premier Division achieved Step 7 status, perhaps more tellingly, what does it say about Division 1 that it didn’t?!
At this point I must confess to never having been a fan of the HPL’s second tier. In my view it has achieved little in terms of furthering the development of clubs that couldn’t have been done by the Premier Division of the East Riding County League. Indeed, given that the champions of the County League have gone on to more than hold their own in HPL Division 1 in recent years (2009/10 County champions Hodgsons took the HPL 1 title last term) there’s an argument to suggest that the standard of competition is as good in the County Premier as it is in the Division it feeds.
So, all things considered, I still think we were right to jump ship. Having said that, the sooner we get that extra shower head in each of the changing rooms the better...