The Non-League Football Paper
UNITED’S HOME IS UNDER THE HAMMER
UPWARDLY-mobile Hamworthy United face a date with destiny on Wednesday amid the threat of relegation from the Southern League over a condemned stand.
Chiefs at the Step 4 Hammers are due to meet with landlords the Dorset FA after the only seated stand at the County Ground was shut and recommended for demolition on February 24 following a structural survey.
Following promotion as Wessex League champions last season, work has gone in to meet ground grading requirements, including the club paying £28,000 for a floodlight upgrade.
The rest of the facility has passed, which would enable play-off chasing Hamworthy to keep playing at Step 4 and compete for promotion, but it would fail without replacement seating for at least 150 spectators.
Chief executive Sue Hough confirmed the Dorset FA, which is in charge of the site through a long-term lease from Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, “intends to replace the stand subject to a financial agreement” between the county, club and Premier League Stadium Improvement Fund.
She said a negotiable framework, which would involve Hamworthy funding a portion of the bill, had been put forward with club chairman Steve Mitchener telling The NLP that a meeting has been provisionally set for Wednesday.
The usual March 31 deadline for ground grading has already passed, after which non-compliant clubs “will not be eligible for promotion or to participate in any play-off match…and will be relegated” according to national FA rules, but Mitchener said the Southern League and FA had been “very supportive”.
The FA acknowledged the “recent issue and one that could not have been foreseen”. Work between stakeholders continues with consideration by the ground grading sub-committee to follow “in due course”.
Mitchener reported Hamworthy can host their three remaining home fixtures this season and that the club has not been relegated yet. But he politely declined to comment on any leeway beyond that, including this season’s play-offs.
Teams finishing second and third at Step 4 get home advantage and the Hammers went into the weekend sat third, nine points clear of Wimborne Town in fourth.
“There is possibly going to be a problem, something that we will try to sort out with Dorset in the short term,” he said.
“There are certain things we would have to put in place for any potential home play-off but the main discussion will centre around next season.
“There is a timescale (relating to next season) that I cannot reveal at the moment but it is going to put an awful lot of pressure on us to come up with the required standards.
“There is a lot of work to do and a lot of it is going to depend on the decision making of the Dorset FA. I think it is fair to say they hold the key to what happens to Hamworthy United.
“Considering the success the club has had over the past three years, becoming very high profile in Dorset football, I sincerely hope the Dorset FA makes the right decision.”