Thursday, June 14, 2007

UniBond clubs in line for windfall

Source: M.E.N.

Stuart Brennan
14/ 6/2007

EIGHT UniBond League are clubs hoping for a cash windfall of two home fixtures against FC United next season.

The expansion of the league, into which the Rebels have just been promoted, has brought a shortfall of clubs, with just 18 in the First Division North.

That would have meant 34 fixtures, so to make up the number to 42, the division will be split into two groups on geographical lines and the nine teams in those two groups will each play an extra match against each other.

The league's management committee meet on Saturday to decide on the final geographical split, but it seems likely that the Pennines will be used as a natural divider.

The problem with that is there are only seven clubs on the Yorkshire side of the hills, so at least two from the north west will be forced to join the "Yorkshire" group, a situation no-one wants as it could involve two long trips to play Newcastle Blue Star.

The complicated structure has already come under fire, with Skelmersdale United chairman Frank Hughes calling it a "Mickey Mouse" set-up.

FC general manager Andy Walsh also felt the split could give some teams an unfair advantage.

He said: "No-one knows yet what the exact split is, but we are told that there will be two conferences of nine clubs each, which means four extra home games and four extra away.

"The conferences will be chosen on the basis of proximity, but no-one is sure yet whether that means as the crow flies, road miles, or travelling time - they could deem Bury to be one of the eight clubs closest to the furthest club, Newcastle Blue Star, rather than putting us in with the likes of Curzon and Woodley.

"There are teams which are emerging as favourites for promotion, and if you end up in the same group as several of them, you are clearly at a disadvantage, as you will end up with three games against some of the better teams rather than just two."

Rebels should be among the favourites, but Curzon, Bradford PA and Newcastle have all seen significant investment.

FC will also enter the Manchester Premier Cup for the first time, as well as the FA Cup.