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AFC Sudbury manager Mark Morsley left fuming at Isthmian League and Suffolk FA over the way fixtures have been handled

Mark Morsley feels AFC Sudbury are being unfairly financially penalised by the Isthmian League and Suffolk FA, following fixtures being confirmed for the upcoming season.

The Yellows boss was left fuming after both of their local derbies with Bury Town have been scheduled for Tuesday evenings instead of traditional bank holiday games, which usually ensures season-high gates to boost match day revenue.

His ire only grew after learning Suffolk FA have gone against a majority decision from clubs to expand their Suffolk Premier Cup into a Champions League group and knockout format. He revealed it had been his initial solution put forward to help recoup the lost midweek income of a reduction in league sizes implemented by the national FA last summer.

AFC Sudbury v Bury Town - players protest over late penaltyPicture: Clive Pearson. (13830654)
AFC Sudbury v Bury Town - players protest over late penaltyPicture: Clive Pearson. (13830654)

But Suffolk FA said it would always have needed to be a clear majority of clubs, which was ultimately not reached, to show sufficient support to change the format of their top level competition. Sudbury board member Richard Instance was not happy this had not been communicated to them before the vote.

In response to both the league and county cup situations, Morsley said: “I think the whole thing is a bit of a joke really.

“I was telling people two years ago the league re-structure would cost us lots of money.

“People were saying it would save us money on travelling mid-week but that has been a false economy as we’re losing far more through lost revenue on home matches.”

“I spoke to the board of directors at Sudbury and came up with the idea to change the format of the Suffolk Premier Cup to replace the games we were losing at home.

AFC Sudbury manager Mark Morsley is not happy with the Isthmian League or Suffolk FA following recent announcements on fixturesPicture: Richard Marsham
AFC Sudbury manager Mark Morsley is not happy with the Isthmian League or Suffolk FA following recent announcements on fixturesPicture: Richard Marsham

“Everyone seemed very positive about it and we formally put a proposal to Suffolk FA, who finally took it out to 17 potential clubs to see what they thought. And nine out of 17 wanted to change the format.”

But Suffolk FA chief executive Richard Neal said: “We were clear from the outset that a notable majority would be required. With only nine of the 17 applicable teams voting in favour of change, this is not a sufficient enough mandate to enact this proposal at this stage.

“We thank the club for their proposal and innovative thinking to ensure the Suffolk Premier Cup remains as relevant as ever. We would be prepared to review this again in the future if warranted.”

The BetVictor Isthmian League’s North Division fixture release last Thursday evening saw Sudbury without a traditional Boxing Day game and facing Bury in mid-week games in September (17, A) and February (4, H), as well as hosting Felixstowe on a Tuesday (Aug 20).

Their only home bank holiday fixtures see Histon (New Year’s Day) and Dereham Town (Easter Monday) visit.

And Morsley certainly feels they have been short-changed as a club.

“When I saw the fixtures released by the Isthmian League last week I thought ‘what is going on? No Boxing Day fixture, no Bury game other than midweek and Felixstowe coming to us on a Tuesday night!?’

“Last season there was a 700 gate at Bury and 620 at Sudbury. You are only going to get gates around 250 for Tuesday games.

“That will have a huge impact on crowds. If you think of the crowds Felixstowe have on a Saturday we would have had upwards of 400.

“What is the Istmian League thinking? They are showing they are not interested in Suffolk teams.

“I just think it is an absolute disgrace.”

Betvictor Isthmian League secretary Kellie Discipline, responded saying all clubs are treated the same and they make sure they allow member clubs to make requests for fixtures on forms in advance of them being done, though ‘we cannot meet all 82 clubs’ requests and keep everyone happy’.

She added they would have had to take into account other teams’ requests in wishing to play Bury on bank holidays.

League new boys Cambridge City and Soham Town Rangers will both play Bury home and away on bank holidays.

Sudbury will start their North Division campaign at Olly Murs’ beaten play-off qualifiers (4th) Coggeshall Town on August 17 (3pm).

Meanwhile, they will have the chance to draw a big Saturday crowd in their opening game in this season’s Emirates FA Cup with Felixstowe & Walton United set to visit in the preliminary round on August 24.

Morsley’s side have been handed a clash away at Crayford-based VCD Athletic in the Buildbase FA Trophy preliminary round on October 12.

Sudbury’s pre-season continues on Saturday with the visit of an Ipswich Town XI side on Saturday (2pm) before hosting lower-league Brantham Athletic on Tuesday (7.45pm).

Morsley said he believes Town's first-team manager Paul Lambert will be in attendance on Saturday to run the rule over some under-23s players ahead of the club's first season in League One for more than 60 years.

The sides last met in October, when a crowd of 700 turned out for a floodlight launch match which saw Ipswich Town U23s claim a 3-0 win.

Meanwhile, Sudbury held higher-league Haringey Borough to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday after beating fellow higher-league Leiston 3-0 on Saturday (Maycock, Critchley, Mundawarara) in their latest warm-up games.

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