I have recently concluded that the Football Association, and the Sussex FA, are letting down grassroots football in the county. Let me explain how I came to this conclusion.

My assertions are made based on my experience in Brighton and Hove and two U12/U13 leagues, for girls and for boys.

First of all, it takes families, parents and carers a lot of effort to ferry children to and from football practice mid-week and at weekends. It also takes a lot of effort, and carbon, to travel at times long distances to play teams in places as far apart as Bognor Regis and Eastbourne.

Teams play games to compete, improve, and sometimes win. The expectation when you win is that the points teams accumulate will enable them to move up the league tables and move into more competitive leagues.

This, I discovered recently, is not always necessarily the case. There appears to be plenty of ‘gentlemen agreements’ that involve the Sussex FA, teams and coaches. Parents, carers and children are, it seems, peripheral to these agreements. And when parents query decisions, we are told that clubs need to claim or complain directly to the FA. We cannot.

I was recently advised that if I wanted to complain about promotion/relegation matters for the U12 league, then my Club would have to take that up with the League directly, i.e. Club Secretary to League Secretary. This of course will never happen because of the unwritten agreements in place. It is of course the children who lose out at the end of the season if they are denied promotion on results alone.

There is another parallel promotion system in place, it turns out.

On the specific movement of teams, or the rationale behind these, the process seems to be very opaque.

Take for example the season for 2019/20; the results expunged because the season was stopped in March on account of COVID19. But some teams were promoted. How come?

Turns out that, irrespective of the results, the League Membership still had the authority to set the Constitution of their Divisions at the AGM. This means that, regardless of the status of the previous season or its results, League Members can amend the Constitution for the following season at said AGM. 

When I queried the U12/U13 movements with respect to promotion and relegation this summer, what the Sussex FA told me is that any League could put an amendment proposal to their Member Clubs, for voting upon at the AGM. This would normally pass where a majority vote exists. So a team that does not get the best results could still get promoted.

When I approached our Club, they denied that they get a vote on whether a specific team goes into a specific division. The way it works, they said, the club would normally register its teams, ask for a specific division for each of the teams, then receive a draft division list. Where necessary, the club would provide feedback e.g. ask for a team to be moved.

Clubs, they said, definitely don’t vote on the composition of the divisions.

Clubs, I was also advised, don’t comment on other clubs’ teams’.

The Sussex FA has some explaining to do. I want them and the Football Association to come clean about club movements, especially in a season declared null and void.

We, the parents, carers, and children, spend a lot of time and energy in grassroots football. We deserve some respect, honesty and transparency from those who run the leagues.