Home   Medway   Sport   Article

Gillingham boss Steve Evans backs Fleetwood chairman Andy Pilley in suggesting a north-south divide in the lower leagues of the EFL

Gillingham manager Steve Evans has backed the idea of regionalising the lower leagues.

The chairman of Gills’ divisional rivals Fleetwood Town, Andy Pilley, mentioned the idea this week and it’s one Evans has long been in favour of.

Gillingham played Blackpool away on a Tuesday night this season Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham played Blackpool away on a Tuesday night this season Picture: Ady Kerry

“I think it’s a good idea,” said the Gills boss.

“I have said it privately for many years that if you did it north or south, whatever, however you wanted to shape it up, it creates a lot more interest.

“There would be a lot less travelling for supporters, which is vital, you would have more derbies, more of everything, it could be really exciting and interesting.

“I am sure our supporters would rather see us play teams within a 50-mile radius compared to having to travel the length and breadth of the country.”

Gillingham fans watch on at Southend where they took a large travelling support for a midweek game Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham fans watch on at Southend where they took a large travelling support for a midweek game Picture: Ady Kerry

Mr Pilley said: “It is worth considering a regionalised League 1 and League 2.

"Much as I like Gillingham, I don’t like going there on a Tuesday night, or Portsmouth on a Tuesday night. It makes no sense."

Fleetwood have been well backed financially by Pilley and they are the team the Gills should have played on March 21, the weekend professional football was suspended.

Evans said: “People like him should be listened to but I have said it myself, forget Andy Pilley, I have said it for years, it makes sense for Leagues 1 and 2.

Crowds would be up but policing costs would increase with more local derbies
Crowds would be up but policing costs would increase with more local derbies

“I think it has got some legs, but it is not going to happen soon because it is like trying to move an oil tanker in the Medway.

“Every one of the 72 Football League clubs has an opinion, I think the Championship clubs would possibly go for it.

"Would it make promotion harder? Yes, I think it does. Form goes out the window with local derbies and results go out the window. Well you are going to have to get those results through the window if you have got derbies and teams as close to you on a weekly basis.

“We would take more travelling support and you only have to look at Southend on a Tuesday night, where we take a phenomenal support, and what we take to Wycombe and Oxford, those teams are a lot easier to travel to.”

Accrington Stanley on a visit to Priestfield - a 540 mile round trip Picture: Barry Goodwin
Accrington Stanley on a visit to Priestfield - a 540 mile round trip Picture: Barry Goodwin

Gillingham would benefit from bigger crowds at Priestfield too.

Burton Albion had less than 100 supporters at ME7 earlier in the season and Rochdale only just got over three figures for their visit.

Close to 1,000 Gills fans were at Southend on a Tuesday night, despite problems at the crossing.

Evans said: “The atmosphere and the interest goes up enormously doesn’t it when you play your rivals.

Gillingham away fans at rivals Swindon Town, who are currently in League 2 Picture: Barry Goodwin
Gillingham away fans at rivals Swindon Town, who are currently in League 2 Picture: Barry Goodwin

“If Fleetwood are playing Southend it creates nothing does it? That is because of geography. If Fleetwood play Blackpool or Bolton they go across the M62, the games become exciting for supporters.

“I think far too often, and because of the money at the top end of it, to a degree supporters have been forgotten. It as been proven at the minute that without supporters there is no game at the level we know it.

“Off the back of these issues, peoples concerns and all the stuff, it makes good sense. The revenue will be good, attendances will be up, rivalry will be up, getting points will be tougher, but it’s got great legs.”

Here's how a north/south divide could look;

EFL 'North': Accrington Stanley, Barrow (up from the National League), Blackpool, Bolton Wanderers, Bradford City, Burton Albion, Carlisle United, Crewe Alexandra, Doncaster Rovers, Fleetwood Town, Grimsby Town, Lincoln City, Macclesfield Town, Mansfield Town, Morecambe, Oldham Athletic, Port Vale, Rochdale, Rotherham United, Salford City, Scunthorpe United, Shrewsbury, Sunderland, Tranmere Rovers.

EFL 'South': Bristol Rovers, Cambridge United, Cheltenham Town, Colchester United, Coventry City, Crawley Town, Exeter City, Forest Green Rovers, Gillingham, Ipswich Town, Leyton Orient, MK Dons, Newport County, Northampton Town, Oxford United, Peterborough United, Plymouth Argyle, Portsmouth, Southend United, Stevenage, Swindon Town, Walsall, Wimbledon, Wycombe Wanderers,

More on the Gills;

Management keeping tabs of non-league scene

The day the Gills won the league in pictures

Midfielder hopes 'mad season' ends on a high


More by this author


This website and its associated newspaper are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More