The Future of the Somerset Premier Cup
Written by Mark Tanner 2 April 2014
Following a very poor showing from a strong Bath City side, which saw them crash out of the Somerset Premier Cup, there has been a lot of talk about the relevance of the competition. Some are calling for a re-vamp of the competition, whilst some have been saying Bath should pull out altogether despite winning it 21 times! This piece will be exploring these possibilities and concluding with what the future could hold for the competition.
My understanding of the competition is that each team who wish to enter FA competitions, be it the FA Cup or Trophy, must compete in senior county cup competitions. So Bath City compete in it to be in these two competitions and Keynsham compete to play in the Vase; along with all other senior teams from Western League level upwards. The biggest team in the competition is Yeovil Town, who play in the Championship (one step below the Premier League) followed by Bath and Weston Super Mare in the Conference South.
This year saw the following teams compete:
Yeovil, Bath City, WSM, Frome Town, Paulton Rovers, Taunton Town, Larkhall Athletic, Odd Down, Wells City, Cheddar, Bishop Sutton, Clevedon Town, Keynsham Town, Bridgewater Town, Wincanton Town, Shepton Mallet, Street, Hengrove Athletic, Radstock Town, Chard Town, Ashton & Backwell, Portishead Town, Wellington and Brislington
There is no information online about the prize money on offer, which suggests that it isn’t much for going through the rounds or even winning it. The smaller clubs in the competition though have a chance to line up a local derby against teams a few leagues higher than them and if they are to draw the likes of Yeovil, Bath or WSM then their gate will be swelled a little for the game. The main attraction in playing one of these teams though is for the players; if they win then they have bragging rights locally. More press coverage in local publications and online is also a bonus as if done correctly they can possible attract a few more through the gate at their next league game. A good impression of a smaller club will stick in people’s mind so if they can’t get to many away games, of their main team, then they may decide to adopt a smaller club to watch instead.
So with little to no prize money on offer it is hard for managers to take the competition seriously. If they have something to play for that season in the league or other competitions, then the extra games can cause a lot of mid week games. Also for Western League clubs this competition takes priority over league games, causing a back log for the rest of the season. It is especially hard if they are drawn away and have a home game rearranged that month, as for clubs like Keynsham that is their only source of revenue. Bigger clubs like Bath, WSM and Frome find it hard going too as their small squads have to play another 90 minutes of football often resulting in injuries or even suspensions.
However this can benefit clubs with suspended players. It is viewed by the FA as a competitive senior game so any suspensions will be reduced by a game, meaning they can return to league action quicker. These games also give a chance for fringe players to make a mark in the team. Even though teams must play 7 of the players who have featured in the last two games this still allows managers to field the rest of the team of youth team and non contract players. Scott Wilson took full advantage of Bath’s game against Cheddar in an early round this season and bagged himself two goals as Bath won 3-1 and he was in the starting 11 for the next game, setting up the only goal of that game.
This season’s competition has had some controversy with Yeovil Town pulling out in the quarters finals. They were due to travel to Frome, with the Southern League club looking forward to a much needed pay day. It is unclear whether Yeovil paid a fine for this after citing fixtures congestion as the main reason for their pulling out. They have promised Frome a pre season friendly with all the money going to Frome but their officials aren’t happy with this as they would get a bigger crowd in a competitive fixture between the two sides. There was also an incident with Bath City in 2004/05 season when they played their under 18 squad in their game against Brislington. They were easily defeated 5-0 and fined a few hundred pounds for not following the competition rules. Both of these incidents made a mockery of the Somerset FA’s premier cup competition and was very disrespectful to their lower league opponents, but shows how badly the competition needs reinventing.
So if fixture congestion, injuries and a lack of prize money is a problem then why don’t they try revamping the ageing competition? Many Bath fans have called for a summer competition in pre season. This could work by grouping clubs together via a draw and then have a semi finals and final, being played a the largest stadium in the area. That way it would be a bit of a draw for the lower league clubs and provide competitive action for the more senior clubs with the option of using trialists and younger players in competitive games. That way it could have more media coverage for pre season games and act as a good show piece for the Somerset FA and raise interest in local football before the season starts.
The only other idea would be to increase the prize money to make it more attractive. Have a sponsor for the cup and a clear vision of where the final will be and build up better coverage for the games. The Somerset FA website wasn’t up to date and I could find very little information on the competition online when I researched it. Even the picture I used for this article was from the Somerset FA website and looks like it was made in 1998 by a child using Paint! These things need to change for the managers to take the competition more seriously and get more pride back into the local area.
To conclude, the competition for next season needs to have more meaning for the teams competing in it. That can either come in a more professional cup with increased prize money or in the form of a pre season tournament to raise local pride and awareness for it. This will then stop the bigger teams pulling out or just playing the youth team in it and enable smaller clubs to be able to make some much needed money from it.
Wiki, well everyone uses it!
Somerset FA site, very hard to use and not very informative either!
Western Gazette, Frome’s reaction to Yeovil pulling out
Full game, Bath City vs Larkhall in action for 120mins this season
If you have any views on this topic or maybe you are a manager or player who has played in it then please get in touch if you would like a follow up article.