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Eighth tier club face being relegated instead of competing in playoffs

An eighth tier club face being relegated instead of competing in the division’s playoffs because they have failed a requirement.

Welwyn Garden City issued a statement on Good Friday saying that they have failed their ground grading, but have since appealed the decision.

At the time of being handed the punishment, the Citizens currently sit 4th in the Southern League – Central Division, but have since fallen to 5th after losing 3-1 away to Hertford Town.

They will play Barton Rovers and Kidlington this week and then their season ends, unless their appeal is successful and they claim a playoff place.

A failed ground grading would mean they will not be able compete in the playoffs & would instead be brutally relegated to Step 5 of non league.

The FA stayed non-committal on the issue, saying they were “unable to comment on specific clubs or cases at this time” before going on to say that the “league allocations for next season, taking into account all promotion and relegation, will be published in due course”.

A spokesman added: “As further guidance, the FA’s current ground grading requirements for the National League System were updated in July 2020 and clubs are reminded each season of the requirements for these respective grades.

“These are in place to ensure club facilities are of a sufficient standard for the relevant level of the game and to provide an incremental progression from very basic facilities to those suitable for the EFL.

“Any club does that does not meet those requirements will not be eligible for promotion and subject to possible relegation, subject to an appeals process.”

As confirmed by Ollie Bayliss, another unnamed Step 4 club has also failed a ground grading and (subject to appeal) will be relegated.

“I understand there are also clubs elsewhere in the pyramid who have failed ground gradings.

“It makes it challenging to track promotions, relegations & reprieves with any certainty.”

Plenty of social media users reacted as the eighth tier club face being relegated instead of competing in the playoffs…

@JohnRyan_4: There are some absolute dumps at Step 4, a lot worse than WGC. What exactly is the criteria 🤷‍♂️

@GarethHillier2: Imagine if some of the FA money coursing through footballs upper echelons – lining shareholders’ pockets at the expense of families remortgaging homes to see a game – actually made it through to support grass roots development/maturity.. I hope @WGCFC win their appeal 🤞⚽️

@GoldyGold55: This is becoming a farce. The FA need to start getting their priorities straight, like for instance focusing more energies on the state of grassroots football and how certain clubs are not fit for purpose!!

@AntonyMolinari: Was there a few weeks ago with Biggleswade FC, didn’t think there was much wrong with the ground at all.

@Boy94Tommy: Feel absolutely gutted for @WGCFC 😔

@andyh2602: Yet there are clubs at Step 4 level, who don’t have and never had their own grounds!! 🙄

@NJdelerium: Not much obviously wrong with the ground at @WGCFC when I visited earlier this season – I wonder if the issue is that directive the FA issued a few years ago about the minimum size of changing rooms. Lots of clubs looked hard-pressed to comply with that.

@jamleeroberts: Madness. Nice little ground. Can’t believe it doesn’t meet grading.

@nomis1066: Relegated by rule book when you finish 4th. I feel their pain. Happened to Hastings Town in 98/99 and I STILL feel the pain. Who actually puts these rule books together? What rule have WGC broken?

@Mark_AFC_Bright: this grounds better than some of the others at step 4. would be a shame to see them put back to the spartan league after the efforts to get out of it

@marlowboy38: Unless there is a critical safety issue then grading at step 4 level and below has to be more sympathetic. Recent seasons with Covid have severely affected income streams. Local football for the community. Support it.

@CheethamThe: I’ve been there and thought it was a neat and tidy set up.

@LewisW89: Good to see the FA have got their priorities in order.

@swampy61: Double punishment. Seems a bit harsh. I get the grading required as part of promotion, but then say it’s not good enough to remain in a division where the criteria didn’t previously exist is OTT.

@Vc121Vic: Why does this surprise anyone,without grassroots football there is no EFL, no Premier league. Have said for a while the @FootballAssoc is no longer fit for purpose 😕

@TudorHammer: There are worse grounds in the National League South. It baffles me it really does. The worse thing is that the FA do precisely that to help clubs – ‘FA’ indeed.

@DerehamFan: Got to feel sorry for WGC , when there are teams in step 4 who openly don’t (and never intend) to have their own ground.

@RussWWFC: Mad, perhaps the graders could point out at what point this season it’s been unsafe or supporters have had to suffer, harsh on @WGCFC

@leonosullivan: Why on earth do they leave it until April to decide these things? Suspect there are a few clubs in our division who might have saved a bit of money over the last few months had they known that they only had to finish 18th to be completely safe from relegation.

@swalespeanut: The funny thing is they the FA themselves allowed them to play at step 4 at the beginning of the season and only now they’re saying isn’t suitable for step 4. Can’t make up their minds that’s how dumb the FA are.

@danwilson1510: Yet teams like hashtag have never had a ground and are allowed to compete in play offs 🥴🥴

@Welchyyy88: Shame that, hopefully gets sorted.

@Rob4481587: Ground grading rules are a load of bullshit. Yes, Herns Way is far from the best ground at Step 4 but this seems ridiculous. A fantastic season on the pitch for nothing.

@MitchPiggon9: Should fail on the state of the pitch, like playing on a car park every time Iv been there 🤣

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