Battling Borough given a lifeline
And manager Anthony Choat has welcomed it as ‘great news’ which could renew the team’s drive for safety.
It had not looked good for the survival of Haverhill Borough in their first season at Step 5, sitting in a fifth-from-bottom position with as many as seven teams understood to be facing the axe at the end of the season.
But Peter Hutchings, chairman of the Thurlow Nunn League, has now clarified that four teams are ‘most likely’ to be demoted as part of an extensive change to the national non-league structure.
It leaves Borough in the last available ‘safe spot’ and four points above the drop zone.
Choat said: “That’s obviously great news for us and we’ve still got plenty of games to make sure we stay where we are or improve.
“It’s brilliant news that we are already in a place to push on from. It’s still in our hands.
“The news will definitely give us a really big boost.
“Our aspirations remain to finish as high as we can, but it’s also great to have the clarity over where we stand and what we need to avoid.”
Clubs have said they have been left in the dark after they were told there would be changes at the start of the season and the possibility of seven teams going down.
But Hutchings has now revealed that seven demotions is a highly unlikely scenario, with the clubs to ‘expect four teams to go down’, a clarification Choat has welcomed.
Hutchings said: “There will be 20 teams in the Premier Division next season so there will be four teams expected to go down.
“The restructure and plans come from the FA — it is their decision — and I understand they have now put out that no more than four teams will be relegated.
“I think there will probably also be some lateral movement from the league though, such as Saffron Walden to an Essex league, so seven teams could still be leaving the Premier Division but not through relegation.
“We will have a meeting in March to communicate it.
“No one has come to me about any concerns but I’m happy to talk to any club who want to speak about it.
“The final decisions do, ultimately, get made by the FA though.”
The far-reaching changes will see additional divisions created at Steps 3 and 4 as well as at Step 6.
The changes have arisen in a bid to cut down on travel distances and standardise the non-league structure nationally.
Alongside four teams going down, more teams will also face promotion from the Premier Division with 26 teams (usually 14) due to be promoted from Step 5 nationally, with this being a mandatory requirement for the 14 champions and 12 best-placed runners-up on a points-per-game basis.