Community football groups will need to ‘fight for survival’ if moved to Midland’s league by FA

David Chisnall reports

Two community football clubs say they are fighting to survive after the FA made the decision to move both teams into a different league.

The football governing body is planning to transfer Cheshire clubs Northwich Victoria and Winsford United from the North West Counties Football League to the Midland's league.

Both teams say having to play in the Midlands will hit them and their fans financially because of the extra distances they will have to travel.

It is also feared they will struggle to recruit players, who may also be put off by the extra travelling.

Northwich claim the decision has been made with "no correspondence or dialogue with the FA" and the impact of the move would be "severely detrimental" to the future of their club.

Brian Turner, Northwich Victoria Chairman said "This is going to impact us immensely, especially our finances with travelling.

"We've experienced this previously in the 2015 / 2016 season when we nearly folded. We were resilient in the club and among the fans. We survived it. All this could have been sorted if the FA had consulted with the respective leagues and clubs but here we are in this situation.

"We are very resilient but there comes a limit to how far we can go."

Steve Wilkes, manager, said "We've lost players already. I have spoken to every single player we are trying to retain and 99 per cent of them can't commit either because of work or financial reasons.

"All the target players we have spoken to also can't commit. We are basically going to be left we no team and this is a time of the season when managers are doing their work. We've still got to wait two or three weeks before the appeal comes to fruition. It's an absolute nightmare to be honest."

The board of directors at Winsford United have echoed their rivals, adding it would be "financially unviable" for the team to compete in the Midlands.

Lee Duckworth, Winsford United manager said "It's a club at the heart of the community. It's unbelievable no consultation took place.

"The whole squad is affected. Not just the local lads. It's the lads that have to travel one or two hours just to play for the club.

"They have a big affiliation for the club. For them to have it all taken away from them because of the lack of foresight and consultation it's just disastrous."

Both teams, which have been at the heart of their communities for more than 140 years, have appealed to the FA to reverse the decision.

A statement from Northwich Victoria said: "Northwich Victoria would like to place on record how deeply disappointed we are in the decision made by the Football Association and our movement into the Midlands League.

"Northwich Victoria are a North West Club and our 149 year history has now been put into jeopardy as the financial implications and player availability of the current squad will mean we may not be able to continue as a football club.

"We are also bitterly disappointed that there has been no correspondence or dialogue with the FA on the impact that this would have on community clubs across the country, and therefore we echo the views of our neighbours at Winsford United that this is totally unacceptable.

"As a community club we have over 20+ junior teams and 400 children playing under the banner of Northwich Victoria and this has an immediate effect on our status as a community accredited football club as created by the football association.

"We intend to appeal vigorously on the decision made as it would be almost impossible to continue as a club and stay solvent due to the additional financial costs that will be incurred."

In a statement, Winsford United Board of Directors said: "We are deeply shocked and extremely disappointed at the allocation of the football club to the Midlands league following decades in the NWC.

"The lack of due care and attention in consulting with clubs of these matters is of grave concern.

"As a football club we believe the demands to enable us to compete in the geographical area within the Midlands League make it financially unviable for the football club to continue as a solvent entity.

"We therefore intend to profusely appeal with immediate effect, as the survival of our community football club is paramount.

"We cannot as a responsible board allow Winsford United Football Club born in 1883 to be placed at such risk."

Two separate petitions have been started in protest against the movement from the North West Counties Football League to the Midlands league.

Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury has joined the campaign too – as he plans to raise the issue in Parliament as well as provide a letter of support.

A FA Spokesperson said: "We make every effort each season to allocate National League System [NLS] clubs to the most geographically suitable league possible.

"The clubs are allocated to a league based on the step in the NLS that they will be playing in, and their location in the country.

"This season’s allocations are subject to FA Council ratification and an appeal process."

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