When the final whistle blew at the University of Exeter’s Topsham Road ground on 30th April, Budleigh Salterton had secured 2nd place in the Southwest Peninsula League Division 1 East for 2010/11 and therefore obtained promotion that they had applied for some months previously. However, a statement released later that day announced something different:
“We have today received written notification from Budleigh Salterton AFC requesting that their previously submitted application for promotion to the Premier Division be withdrawn.
As todays results have decided, we now know that Budleigh Salterton have completed the season in 2nd place. Under rule this means that the club finishing in 19th position in the Premier Division is no longer due to be relegated. Rules do not allow for a side finishing in 3rd place being promoted instead of Budleigh Salterton AFC.
How this affects the constitution of Division One and the boundary lines in the two East & West Divisions can only be fully considered by the board once all other promotion & relegation issues have been taken into account and this will be on the boards agenda for their next meeting on Monday 9th May.
A further statement will be issued after that meeting.
P A Hiscox (Company Secretary)”
This then blew a massive discussion open about Budleigh Salterton as a team, the other teams they affected and the state of football and ambition in the Southwest as a whole. This blog post (tries) to get into this and offers my two cents on the whole situation. I would love it if you added your comments below.
Budleigh Salterton have now applied and then withdrew from promotion now twice in the past 4 seasons which has probably angered SWPL onlookers as they have previous in this regard. One other sticking point to other fans that have given Budleigh stick is they have affected other clubs. Firstly, Stoke Gabriel FC who finished 3rd this season in SWPL Div 1 East have been denied promotion due to finishing just behind Budleigh and will be stuck in Div 1 for another season. They have also (at this moment) stopped Okehampton Argyle from transferring from Div 1 West to East by staying in this division. This anger from fans has been clearly seen on the SWPL Forum here with people calling for a punishment ranging from no prize money received all the way up to points deduction and slightly OTT throwing them out the league.
Before you throw Budleigh to the wolves and start e-mail the SWPL demanding justice, you do have to consider Budleigh’s reasons for withdrawing their promotion bid. Their treasurer responded with:
“We at Budleigh Salterton try to act in a responsible way in relation to all things. This includes the financial well being of the club which is of course not ‘just’ a football club. The situation we faced was that to play in the higher league would require additional financial support. We were also aware that the existing sponsor was at the end of his three season contract and unlikely to be able to renew.
We have been making an earnest endeavour to obtain fresh sponsorship for several months. We had a date by which application for promotion had to be lodged. Should we give up on sponsorship search on that date, or lodge the application and continue the search? We chose the latter because an untenable situation would have been that we did not apply and later found the financial backing we sought.”
So the reason they are giving is financial factors as well as the increased costs in travelling (e.g – they will have a trip to Penzance if they take promotion to the SWPL Premier – a 248 mile round trip. Although, this would only be made once a season in the league) and the possible lack of a main sponsor which could severely hinder them and put them into financial difficulty for 2011/12. One point on that statement though (if you look at the SWPL Forum thread) is Budleigh officials seem to be giving different statements which probably shows a slight guilt on their part for creating this mess.
Finally, before I give my two cents about what I would have done, we have to remember that the SWPL Secretary has stated that the league has accepted Budleigh’s withdrawal completely and no sanction has been placed on Budleigh (and it is probable that after the May 9th board meeting, still no sanction will have been placed). What the problem is here is not just a SWPL problem though, its arguably a regional southwest problem with a lack of teams moving up AND down the pyramid and so leagues start to stale and the football suffers. With SWPL Premier Champions Buckland Athletic not taking promotion to the Western Premier, the Western Premier Champions not taking promotion to the Southern League (slightly different as their ground failed grading) as well as Champions of the North Devon League, South Devon League, Plymouth & West Devon Combination League… I could go on. It may seem like I’m picking on the Southwest leagues here, but that’s only because I know the situation well. Only 3 teams this season can come out with any positive attitude to their future (Truro City, Bideford AFC and Camelford/Callington Town) after setting new ground in the leagues they were in. How do you solve a problem like Budleigh Salterton? I would have given them a final warning on doing this again and promoted Stoke Gabriel up anyway. (It has happened from Level 11 to 10 before by not picking a Top 2 finishing side) One bigger question is how do you solve a problem in Southwest football? Financial help is a must from the FA and other bodies and more encouragement to stop the football going stale. As they will probably be only one winner if that happens and that is rugby union. Something we really don’t want to see.
P.S – Please comment! I’d love to hear different opinions on this, even if you completely disagree with mine. And lets be honest, you probably do.