The Macron Store Southern Combination Football League was unaware of Little Common Football Club’s groundshare agreement with Eastbourne United AFC, according to its chairman.
Common announced last week they will play their home games at The Oval in Eastbourne next season in order to meet the ground grading requirements for Division One and avoid the possibility of being relegated.
But league chairman Steve Nealgrove says the league didn’t know of the arrangement until being contacted by Observer Sport for its views on the whole situation.
Nealgrove said: “We know nothing about that groundshare as a league. The football club haven’t approached the league for permission and the league haven’t even sanctioned it.
“I asked the relevant people on my committee on Friday and my grounds committee chairman was completely unaware of this situation. The league need to understand the terms of the groundshare before they approve it or not.
“We’re disappointed the football club have gone down this route without informing the league, which they are obliged to do under the FA rules. If Little Common don’t get approval from the league for a groundshare, it’s a possibility they might get relegated to Division Two.”
Nealgrove added that the league did approve a groundshare arrangement between Common and Bexhill United, which would have seen Common’s home games take place at The Polegrove next season.
But as previously reported, Bexhill ultimately declined such an arrangement, with their chairman Bill Harrison saying the main reason for doing so was Common issuing a seven-day approach for one of Bexhill’s players.
Common will finish this season in the third promotion position from Division One, but Nealgrove confirmed they won’t be promoted even though Eastbourne United’s ground meets the Premier Division requirements.
“You can groundshare providing the agreement has been in place for a minimum of 12 months,” he continued. “You can’t put a groundshare arrangement in place to satisfy promotion at the end of the season you’re currently in. There has to be a written agreement on the table.”
Nealgrove went on to say that the league does have a lot of sympathy for Common with their predicament and praised the club’s excellent youth set-up.
Common’s own ground at Little Common Rec doesn’t meet the grading requirements for Division One largely due to the temporary enclosure system it uses on matchdays.
FA rules dictate that a ground has to be permanently enclosed during the course of the football season, which is something landowner Rother District Council is unwilling to allow due to the Recreation Ground being public open space.
Nealgrove said: “We do have a lot of sympathy with the football club. The league have worked with the football club in trying to help them with their landlords to carry out the improvements they need to do.
“We hope that this arrangement will only be short-term for Little Common and that they can come to some agreement with their landlords to play step six football or higher at Little Common.
“It’s a shame because they’re a well-run club and they’re a fantastic advert for football in Sussex because of what they’ve done for the kids.”
Nealgrove added the league has to abide by FA ground grading rules or else it risks being removed from the National League System.
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