A NEW Shropshire football league is ‘ready’ to launch once the government gives grassroots football the green light to resume – with Ludlow and Church Stretton both described as ‘key’ to its future.

The Advertiser reported last month that both clubs were in talks to join the Salop Leisure Football League, a revamped version of the existing Shropshire League both had once been a part of.

The coronavirus lockdown and subsequent premature curtailing of the 2019-20 campaign cast some uncertainty over those plans but the Advertiser understands both clubs remain committed.

And, in a wide-ranging interview, Shropshire FA chief executive Roy Waterfield confirmed that plans for the league to feed into the national non-league system remain unaffected by recent events.

Mr Waterfield told the Advertiser: “I am reasonably confident those two clubs (Ludlow and Stretton) will be inaugural members of the new league.

“We are very dependent on their partnership going forward and, without doubt, they are two clubs who are key to our ambitions.

“Obviously with the closing down of the season and uncertainty of when football will restart, some things are up in the air – having said that, we have had confirmation from the FA of our feeder status.

“We are just waiting on the government and the FA to say when the game can start up again – what we need to know is when can we start planning for? We are ready.

“Will the 2020-21 season start on time? That’s the million dollar question.”

The league needs 14 teams for its top division, a number Waterfield is confident of achieving, but he admits the financial knock-on effects of the lockdown may hit numbers for a second tier.

He added: “When we had a meeting in February, 25 clubs confirmed their interest and said ‘yes, we want to be a part of it’ but we have got to understand the financial impact of what’s happened since.

“I have seen it reported that the loss of revenue to clubs below the Football League is as high as £700m. Will the second tier be viable? We’ll have to see.

“But one of the things we are selling the league on is that will be a lot more local derbies – one of the reasons behind it is to make football in Shropshire as cheap as it can be for clubs.”

Joining the new league would, in effect, be a promotion for both Ludlow and Stretton from Step 8 – their current home, in West Midlands League Division Two – of the non-league game to Step 7.

And the champions of the new league will be eligible for promotion up to Step 6 – giving them the chance to join the upper echelons of the Midland, North West Counties or Hellenic Leagues.