Needham Market's move to Southern League confirmed
Needham Market's lateral move from the Bostik League (Isthmian) to the Evo-Stik Southern League, under the Football Association's restructure of non-league football across the country, has been confirmed with some eye-watering travelling distances now ahead of them.
The Marketmen seem to be one of the victim's of the re-structure, which is ironically taking place to reduce travelling times for clubs.
Richard Wilkins' side, who play at Step 3 of the National League Structure (three levels below the Football League's bottom division) will be playing in the newly-created Evo-Stik Southern League Central Division in 2018/19.
The club, who had been plying their trade in the Bostik League Premier Division, finishing their 2017/18 campaign in 19th place (out of 24), will now see more than half (52.38 per cent) of their away trips rack up 250-mile-plus round trips - equating to more than two hours travelling each way.
Players, officials and supporters face a 330 mile round trip from Needham's Bloomfields ground to opponents Stourbridge, which is set to take around three hours one way and six hours in total.
Of the 21 teams they will play when the season kicks off from August, six are more than 300 mile round trips, those being:
- Alvechurch (305)
- Halesowen Town (314)
- Hednesford Town (310)
- Redditch United (308)
- Rushall Olympic (301)
- Stourbridge (330)
The lateral league move does, however, see Needham lose some of the long trips from their previous league, with Worthing (330), Margate (312) and Folkestone Invicta (308) all coming in at 300-plus round mile trips.
Needham's only away match in 2018/19 that will require less than an hour's travelling to get to the ground will be Suffolk rivals Leiston (50 mins approx) who are also being laterally moved under the re-jig, along with Lowestoft Town (1hr 15mins approx).
Now the re-structure has been made known, Wilkins could face losing some of his players who have been waiting to see what commitments will be required for 2018/19.
Meanwhile, local sides who played in the Bostik League North Division in 2017/18, AFC Sudbury, Bury Town, Mildenhall Town and Soham Town Rangers, have all had confirmation they will remain in that division in 2018/19. They have found out they will be set to face, and travel to, four new teams though, across Suffolk and Essex in Great Wakering Town, Basildon United, Coggeshall Town and Felixstowe & Walton United in a reduced 20 team division (previously 24).
Under the national restructure, the Bostik League will now operate an extra division at Step 4, to be known as the Bostik League Central Division.