Barlow calls for league reform

ROYSTON TOWN president Alan Barlow has called for what he believes is a long overdue shake-up of step five football.

Under the current system, only one team from each level of step five – which includes Royston’s Spartan Premier Division league – can win promotion to the next tier meaning the season is already all but over for the majority of clubs come Christmas.

And Barlow says that unless a reform is made clubs will continue to invest hard work and money without being offered an incentive.

“The fact there is only one promotion spot in step five is a national disgrace to non-league football,” said Barlow.

“There is just no incentive for clubs. If you’re mid-table at this point in the season then there is nothing left to play for except maybe one or two who are still in cup competitions.

“It’s a no-brainer for non-league to address this issue and a lot of step five clubs feel the same. What is the problem with having a second promotion place or a play-off system? There are all sorts of options to make sure clubs are given an incentive to get promotion and to justify the money being invested into clubs.

“Whether anyone has the balls to address it, I don’t know. It needs someone to recognise it’s an issue.”

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Barlow’s view is an understandable one given that Royston have invested plenty of funds in recent years to ensure facilities at Garden Walk are good enough for the next level.

A new standing area, turnstiles, a dressing room refurbishment and new floodlights have all been paid for to meet not only Football Association standards, but to give the club a chance to progress.

But, looking at the current Spartan South Midlands Premier Division table, it could well be that another season at this level will follow due to the runaway start of league-leaders Chalfont St Peter.

Barlow believes the current squad is capable of promotion but admits inconsistency has made it unlikely to happen this season.

“As a club, our objective is to be in step four and also maybe step three,” added Barlow. “I feel we would be capable – with our current squad – of holding our own in step four and I’d be confident we could make a bit of a show at that level.

“This season has been marked by inconsistency, though, which shows across both the league and cup competitions. We have just not performed on a consistent basis and I think the fans would say the major dent was the defeat away to Hatfield Town.

“You could see the confidence of the players just draining away that night and it shouldn’t have happened but it did.

“But, if you look at our performance in the two FA Vase matches against Leiston you could say that we were unfortunate not to go through. In the first game we were perhaps unlucky to lose the penalty near the end and the replay was probably our best performance of the season so to come away with nothing was highly disappointing.

“Then we went from that to the defeat at Hillingdon Borough. Inconsistency is a word which runs through our season.

“All credit to Paul (Attfield), though, he is always trying to improve the squad and he’s stuck with a certain type of play and hopefully the signing of the new lads from Hatfield will prove to be a step forward.”