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Home: Non-League Football Discussion: Restructuring Discussion:
The problem with the North/South debate

 

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Andrelux
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Sep 22, 2009, 10:43 AM

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The problem with the North/South debate Can't Post or Reply Privately

When discussing how to split the step 2/3/4 leagues, there's an underlying assumption that some partts of the country (e.g. the South East) are unduly favoured above others, and that somehow we need to rectify a perceived South Eastern bias. The bias is really clear when you place your markers on a map (see Mike Avery...)

However, when you look at it a different way and think in terms of population, I'm not sure there is such a bias. The following link is to a different kind of map, based on population

http://www.olib.co.uk/popmap/

It would be interesting to place team markers on THAT map. My suspicion is that it would then look a lot more even.


mip
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Sep 22, 2009, 11:00 AM

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Re: [Andrelux] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately


In Reply To
When discussing how to split the step 2/3/4 leagues, there's an underlying assumption that some partts of the country (e.g. the South East) are unduly favoured above others, and that somehow we need to rectify a perceived South Eastern bias. The bias is really clear when you place your markers on a map (see Mike Avery...)

However, when you look at it a different way and think in terms of population, I'm not sure there is such a bias. The following link is to a different kind of map, based on population

http://www.olib.co.uk/popmap/

It would be interesting to place team markers on THAT map. My suspicion is that it would then look a lot more even.

Good point! In more populated parts of a country with more clubs, the league footprint will always be smaller than in less populated areas. This is a fundamental problem that you can't avoid. Hence clubs in populated areas will have an advantage and be able to progress further at lower travelling costs. I think this is one of the inherent biases in life. One way to circumvent this would be to set up an FA travelling fund that supports clubs in less populous areas.

All said, I think the geographical division of steps in England is unduly bound by history and various leagues saving their own bacon without an eye for the bigger picture. In say Denmark and Sweden geographical divisions are made by the respective FAs by pinning clubs on a map and drawing the most reasonable lines. I'm really a traditionalist when it comes to football, but in this case history is hindering common sense to prevail.


Jon M
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Sep 22, 2009, 11:16 AM

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Re: [Andrelux] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

During a very quiet week at work, I once looked into something like this, with basic premise of my study being to look at how population is reflected by the league structure.
The method I used was to take the population of England and Wales (roughly 50m) and allocate 50 'new' clubs into Step 5 based on the spread of population (ie. one club based in/near an area of 1m people - for ease I used copies of current clubs).

I then used the theory that these clubs were the strongest in their leagues (using their real-life doubles as a means of sorting them) and were therefore promoted ahead of any real Step 5/4/3/ etc clubs.

What quickly became apparent is that all those clubs in the South East had soon emptied step 5 and subsequently step 4, well before many clubs in the North (particularly NW) had got out of the North West Counties (and then got stuck in the single Northern Step 4 league that was in place at the time).

This merely confirmed the general suspicion that balance of leagues in the south east outweighs that of the population.


acmold
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Re: [Jon M] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or

Using that population map as reference (though West Sussex seems to be missing), we have a population of around 45 ish million for England. So you need 15 millionish in three sections. London, surrounding counties come to 14.8 (plus West Sussex), The Lancs / Yorkshire belt of the north (inc Cheshire) comes to 12 million. The Greater Midlands comes to 7.5 million - every county that joins Warwickshire / West Mids plus Notts and Derby. Then you have North East 3.5 million, East (inc Lincs, excluding Essex) 3.8 million. South / West 4.6 million (Hants to Cornwall upto M4 ish).

So on population to "balance" three ways

Lancs / Yorks / Cheshire plus North East 15.5 million.

London plus hinterland 14.8 million (plus West Sussex) presume that would also be around 15.5 million.

The rest - Greater Midlands, East and South / West 14.1 million.

Give or take 10 or 20 miles that sort of fits how the step three / four leagues footprints are aready.

This country's odd shape and so many rural counties and landmass in the west will always cause problems.


Andrelux
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Sep 22, 2009, 11:54 AM

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Re: [mip] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Up to a point...

... the current situation in England stems from the fact that in 1982, in the first flushes of creating a pyramid, the Isthmian League (whose footprint overlapped that of the Southern League) was included as an official feeder league to the Conference (may have been called the Alliance in those day, but you know what I mean). However, this was perfectly logical since Isthmian League clubs were clearly of that standard, based on any number of cup results (national and local).

Leagues then set in train their feeders (official or unoifficial) which has led to the situation we have today

My point is twofold.

Firstly, that in England, unlike most other European countries, a structure of leagues emerged from below rather than being imposed from above. Furthermore, there was no reason why amateur football should necessarily be of a lower standard than semi-professional football, since the difference mainly seemed to involve in whether a player's wages were paid above or below the table. Isthmian clubs came from the Amateur tradition, and by the time the FA decided to scrap the whole issue of amateur vs professional football, had already acquired the kudos to be able to attract the best non-league players - and in fact, since it no longer needed to involve brown envelopes passed under the table, to recruit even better players since it was now above-board.

Secondly, that the reason the the Isthmian League found itself in this position in the first place was precisely because there were so many people living in the South-East, and hence a ready supply of players of a decent standard. There may have been a few (a very few) who specifically chose to remain amateur. Fot the vast majority, it was purely a matter of (a) this is the best team I can play for and (b) officially turning semi-pro may limit my opportunities in the future.

As to why the FA has been so pusillanimous in imposing a structure, I don't know. They missed their chance about 120 years ago (because they weren't particularly interested). About thirty years ago, they figured it might be a good idea. Since when they've been playing catch-up.

So it is the way it is because that's the way it is. Your idea of a travelling fund is however a stonkingly good idea. If we accept the concept that some teams may just have to travel further than others, then they should not be penailised for that fact alone. If you take two teams with an equal budget, then the one which has to travel 5000 miles in a season is automatically penalised compared to a team which only has to travel 1500 miles.


cope1
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Sep 22, 2009, 12:34 PM

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Re: [Andrelux] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

I personally don't see the problem with the FA's involvement. The fact the 1888 FA wasn't interested has nothing to do with the present incumbents. Those in post in 2009 have to decide what is best for the future of the game, not stick to a decision taken by the 1888 committee.

I also don't think the NLS is as ridiculous as many people make out. The FA do have to contend with league egos but many of the people bemoaning this also bemoan the fact that 'grand old leagues' like the Southern League lose much of their former status or get pulled and pushed around geographically. The FA have to play ball with these people because they need the support of the administrators. You can't just chuck the SL (for example) out for non-compliance because you then have to find replacements for them. It needs to happen gradually and it is happening gradually. The complaints we get about distances are nothing new. Bradford (PA) played in the Southern League for heaven's sake - was that not a ridiculous situation? I know there were many differences in the situation of the SL at the time (being the 3rd tier of football rather than the 7th being one) but the suggestion that the current alignments are ridiculous is, to my mind, an easy way of jumping on a popular bandwagon.

Getting back to the main topic of population vs distance, I've heard it argued that being in a congested area can have a negative effect as clubs have more competition from neighbouring rivals. If you compare Arsenal and Spurs with Newcastle, for instance, you have, on the one hand, 2 clubs in close proximity competing with each other (and various other local rivals) for fanbase. Newcastle are unchallenged in their home town which is one reason they are able to fill a 50000+ capacity stadium on such mediocre performances. I think the idea of pooling resources and dishing out subsidies to teams out on a limb is interesting but I think it'd be a hard one to sell, as a vast majority of clubs don't come under the banner of being out on a limb.


pitch 63
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Sep 22, 2009, 12:51 PM

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Re: [cope1] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Whilst I appreciate the structured way that the informed comments have been laid out in this thread, what are the chances of the FA looking at this problem, and then what are the chances of the FA coming up with something that we regard as realistic and workable. It would always be a political compromise rather than a realistic and workable solution.

Maybe we are all looking at this in a two dimensional way, when we should be using a three dimensional way - a National Division for all clubs with grounds 500 feet or above sea level, another National Division for all clubs with grounds between 400 and 500 feet above sea level, etc. etc. with a final division for clubs with grounds below 100 feet above sea level [taking account of clubs with grounds below sea level]. Finally play-off matches at Wembley. You never know the FA is mad enough to adopt this.


cope1
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Sep 22, 2009, 1:08 PM

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Re: [pitch 63] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately


In Reply To
Whilst I appreciate the structured way that the informed comments have been laid out in this thread, what are the chances of the FA looking at this problem, and then what are the chances of the FA coming up with something that we regard as realistic and workable. It would always be a political compromise rather than a realistic and workable solution.

Maybe we are all looking at this in a two dimensional way, when we should be using a three dimensional way - a National Division for all clubs with grounds 500 feet or above sea level, another National Division for all clubs with grounds between 400 and 500 feet above sea level, etc. etc. with a final division for clubs with grounds below 100 feet above sea level [taking account of clubs with grounds below sea level]. Finally play-off matches at Wembley. You never know the FA is mad enough to adopt this.


Here we go again. Can you tell me, please, exactly what you think the FA is doing wrong? I am very interested in looking at alternative solutions but I get heartily sick of hearing this bleating about the FA. They get criticised for changing things, criticised for not changing things and then criticised for whatever changes they actually make. Most of the 'solutions' proposed are no better than what they replace but, because they are not implemented the authors are not in a position to be proven wrong. The FA actually have to make the decisions and then give them time to work. The people who criticise do not have that responsibility or pressure so they can say what they want. It's like being a referee - it's obvious which way decisions should go when you don't have to tell 22 players (+ fans) what the decision is and then stick to it - less so when you do have to do that.


Three Sides
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Sep 22, 2009, 1:31 PM

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Post #9 of 62 (6206 views)
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Re: [Andrelux] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

I can't add teams to that map.

I have created two maps that could be viewed 'in addition to it'

The first one is a series of 'blobs' the bigger the blob, the greater the number of teams in an area.
The 2nd, slightly easier on the eye, just has the usual dots for teams step 1-6.

http://www.mikeavery.co.uk/Difftempsep22.htm


Andrelux
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Sep 22, 2009, 1:52 PM

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Re: [pitch 63] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

I really think that mip's idea of a travelling fund makes sense, although thei issue in Britain is often blown out of all proportion. In another thread, someone pointed out that in the Russian second division, teams might have to travel between Vladivostok and Kaliningrad - or basically a quarter way around the world. Imagine what you'd feel like if you got there and the game had been postponed. If Truro and Alnwick Town happened to get promoted to the Conference, it'd still be less than a 400 mile trip for each of them.

Nevertheless, teams that have to travel further ARE at a disadvantage - it costs more to travel, so all other things being equal, and given the same kitty, you have to spend more of it on travel costs, and you've got more 7am starts to meet 3pm fixtures, which can't be helpful. Somehow compensating them for this can't be a bad thing.

Dealing with other comments, Pitch 63's comment about altitude has some merit, although the effect of playing at 0 or 500 feet is negligeable. It might begin to kick in at 1000 feet, although I am not aware that the village of Flash in Derbyshire has a football team.

As for Cope1's comments about the FA - I'm not criticising the FA now, nor am I criticising the FA 120 years ago. England was the first country to set up a football association and a league structure, and therefore the first to have an opportunity to make mistakes. Trying to rectify the situation 20 years ago does mean having to deal with 100 years of baggage.


Geoff
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Sep 22, 2009, 5:49 PM

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Re: [Andrelux] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

It may be true that clubs in isolated areas have greater travel costs than those in more populated areas.
Conversely they face less competition for players so may be able to pay lower wages, or land values may be lower so the cost of buying or renting a ground may be lower.
Travel is only one the costs of running a football club, albeit a major one for most clubs.
If we are going to have a fund to equalise travel costs should we also consider similar funds to cover other costs which vary from club to club and are similarly affected by geographical factors?


Andrelux
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Sep 22, 2009, 6:35 PM

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Re: [Geoff] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Yes, but if you're in a less populated part of the country, there'll be fewer players nearby of a suitable standard to choose from. The ground etc cost point is a good one though.


(This post was edited by Andrelux on Sep 22, 2009, 6:37 PM)


cope1
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Re: [Andrelux] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Took all those words right out of my mouth on all fronts.
I don't suppose anyone has any data we can use to see how the different costs match up?


ladderman
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Sep 23, 2009, 8:43 AM

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Re: [cope1] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately


Quote
Travel is only one the costs of running a football club, albeit a major one for most clubs.


I'm not sure it's a major cost when you're talking about step 2/3 clubs who are paying out 3k+ per week in wages. If you're going to run a coach to the majority of games, and you're shelling out those kind of wages, where it actually goes to isn't that relevant.

I see no problem with a travel equalisation system, but then it has to be extended to ref's expenses as well, and the issue is where you stop trying to make everything equal.


Mishi
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Sep 23, 2009, 8:48 AM

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Re: [ladderman] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

At &/or below step three I'd say the major cost for clubs is paying utility bills, rather than wages. The cost of electric, gas, water, business rates etc. is almost crippling my club, & I'm sure others are in the same boat. Money that wnet towards players wages a couple of years ago is now needed to pay the bills, & is the reason why we are going with youngsters, on a very samll wage bill.



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dengel3000
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Sep 23, 2009, 6:44 PM

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Re: [Andrelux] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

i've said this on other threads, but if you had promotion via national play-offs at one level (i pick Step 5 myself...), the teams above that level are automatically the right teams because they have qualified for it under the same system. if one region is stronger than another, for whatever reason including population, it will have more teams promoted than a weaker one.

the entire system becomes self-correcting, in that all the teams at Step 4 or above in the country are already at the right level and have equal opportunity. where the population is ceases to matter and the argument goes away. the highest 48 or 36 applicants at Step 5 who meet the criteria would make the play-offs for 12 places if you had the national play-off at Step 5.

the footprints of each league fluctuate slightly each year which annoyed some folk last time i suggested it, but then they already do - look at Gloucester City or Rushall Olympic and see if they are in the right region by population. the only difference is that this time people wouldn't be having the same old argument about different populations and standards in different areas...


PaulC
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Sep 23, 2009, 7:43 PM

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Re: [Andrelux] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Half the population of England lives to the north of the Severn-Wash line. Half lives to the south.

The division of clubs in steps 2/3/4 is moving further and further south beyond the Severn-Wash line.


Lars
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Sep 23, 2009, 11:57 PM

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Re: [Andrelux] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Here's a thread in which all level 1-8(?) teams was listed in an interesting way, according to north/south, counties, etc.
http://www.nlpl.co.uk/...orum.cgi?post=170033
(Scroll down in the thread until "T P" lists them as a reply to AndyE.)


cope1
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Re: [dengel3000] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

This would be interesting although having truly national - i.e. random - play-offs would be impractical with regard to travelling costs I think. Also, you could argue that the worst teams in step 4 will be relegated each season, meaning that while all 14 leagues at step 5 have the same promotion opportunities regardless of strength, those clubs which are weakest are more likely to come back down. It's too late for me to figure out if this is entirely correct so feel free to show me how it's wrong (if you think it is).


acmold
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Re: [PaulC] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or


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Half the population of England lives to the north of the Severn-Wash line. Half lives to the south.

The division of clubs in steps 2/3/4 is moving further and further south beyond the Severn-Wash line.


The reason can be explained in the following from the 2001 census

"This shows that in the past 20 years the population of England rose by 2,318,000 and the population of London rose by 366,500 from 6,805,600 in mid-1981. This is a steady gain of 5.4 per cent compared with the rate of growth of England of 5.0 per cent."

"By comparison the South East region gained 755,100 (10.4 per cent), the South West region added 547,100 (12.5 per cent) and The East 534,100 (11 percent). There were population losses in the North West and North East Regions"

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/.../press_release_l.asp

The actual split at the 2001 census was North 23.6m, South 25.4m.


Andrelux
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Sep 24, 2009, 2:40 PM

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Re: [acmold] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

This goes some way to making the point I was originally trying to make.

If we assume that because you come from Cornwall, you will not necessarily be a better (or worse) player than someone from Cumbria, and that, generally speaking, teams in non-league football tend to recruit players who already live in their catchment areas (not too many Brazilians playing in the Isthmian League, as an example), then you're always going to be confronted by a dilemma. Either you try and arrange things to ensure that all teams have an even number of miles to travel (thereby penalising teams from more populated areas) or you work it on the basis of overall performance, and ignore distance (in which case, you **may**, possibly, be penalising teams from less populated areas as they will have further to travel and thereby incur more costs).

The point that about 50% of the population live north and south of the Wash is valid but not fine-grained enough. It ignores the fact that, for example, relatively few people live in the South West of england, or that there are some significant concentrations of population north of the Wash separated by great deserts. Between the Tyneside/Wearside/Teesside conurbations and the rest of the country for example, you have quite a gap to the West Yorkshire area. This may explain why so many north-eastern sides are happy staying where they are, and why so many who have "moved on" have fallen flat on their faces.

Looking at the population map, and without having put the dots in, I wonder whether London may actually be UNDER-represented, rather than the other way around.

Before too many people from the North of England get up in arms, can I just point out that many London teams have a healthy sprinkling of Northerners/Midlanders who've moved down to the smoke.


PaulC
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Sep 24, 2009, 3:49 PM

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Re: [Andrelux] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Actually the North/South imbalance at Steps 1-4 is not particularly pronounced. The problem is at Step 5 where (last season's figures) the Severn/Wash split yielded 105 North/186 South.



Andrelux
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Sep 24, 2009, 4:09 PM

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Re: [PaulC] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Good point. Feeding into the Northern Premier League - not many leagues. Feeding into the Isthmian -shed loads.

But turning the arguement on its side, might that not mean that there are too many northern sides?

(lights touchpaper and steps back...)


cope1
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Re: [Andrelux] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

It all comes down to the issue of strength. If the Isthmian feeders are as strong as the NPL feeders it means there are more clubs of a certain standard in the IL footprint than in the NPL footprint. This doesn't really help of course, it just means we have the same, imperfect situation we had before.


vienna1964
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Re: [cope1] The problem with the North/South debate [In reply to] Can't Post or

I continue to maintain that the North/South split in Football is actually pretty darned reasonable.


Perhaps folk should compare the N/S distribution situation between footie and say Cricket, Hockey or the Rugby codes - to see whether 'our' distribution is errant at all.



I APOLOGISE UNRESERVEDLY TO EACH AND EVERY PERSON ON THIS FORUM WHO HAS FELT LET-DOWN BY MY INIMICABLE AND DEPLORABLE BEHAVIOUR OF OCTOBER 28th. 2009. ESPECIALLY TO BRIAN, WHO IS A MARVELLOUS GENTLEMAN AND IS THE LAST PERSON HERE WHO SHOULD HAVE TO PUT UP WITH SUCH UNDESERVED PERSONAL CHARACTER-ASSASSINATION. LET IT BE KNOWN THAT A PRIVATE PERSONAL APOLOGY WAS SENT, BUT WAS SEEN INSUFFICIENT. FAIR ENOUGH.

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