Worcester Park Football Club have been demoted to a lower division after its ground failed to meet grading requirements – despite being crowned league champions.

The team, part of Worcester Park Athletics Club, was relegated from the Combined Counties Football League’s Division One league following a first-place finish.

It comes as English football’s governing body, the Football Association (FA), has enforced stricter rules on clubs meeting certain ground grading requirements.

Tony Glackin, a Worcester Park Athletic Club football committee representative, said on May 31: “The amount of money that would be needed to be spent on the ground would totally prohibit cricket being played down there and – point of fact – we can’t comply with all their requirements anyway.

“If it was simply a question of putting floodlights in there probably wouldn’t be an issue but it’s not that simple.

“A main obstacle would have been cost. I mean, another one of the requirements is that we have a 100-seater [capacity] stand. I can’t remember the last time we had 100 people in the club watching football, let alone sitting down.

“The FA really are laying down criteria where you have to spent vast sums of money with no guarantee that you’re going to stay at that level and with no guarantee of your income streams either.”

Sutton Guardian:

Worcester Park Football Club. Photo: Tim Gale

Clubs at Step 6 – including Worcester Park – were told by the FA Leagues Committee at the beginning of the 2015/16 season that they must meet certain ground grading requirements.

After being informed again in August 2017, this led to all non-compliant clubs facing relegation for the 2018/19 campaign.

Now Worcester Park will play their games in the Surrey Intermediate Football League at Skinners Field, in Green Lane, known as Step 7 in the national league system.

This is a structure used to put clubs together with similar playing abilities, stadium or ground facilities, as well as economic and geographical means.

Mr Glackin added: “We’re playing in a semi-professional league but we’re an amateur club. Our players pay to play, they’re not paid to play, they actually pay their match fees to play for the club.

“We know we can’t go anywhere above now because of the ground criteria.

"We’re not prepared to spend whatever it would be, which is probably north of about £40,000 or £50,000, because we don’t have the income streams to support that as a section – as a football club.”

The club, nicknamed the Skinners, looked into the prospect of ground-sharing with another team who could help but this was ‘not workable’.

However, Mr Glackin believes this will not impact Worcester Park financially while the club continues to be part of the wider athletics structure.

Sutton Guardian:

Skinners Field. Photo: Worcester Park Football Club / Tim Gale

Alan Constable, the Combined Counties Football League’s fixtures secretary and director, said: “The league did not want to lose these clubs [who were relegated].

“We’ve made our point to the FA on numerous occasions but they were determined to act on this occasion.”

Three other clubs have also suffered the same fate – Staines Lammas from Staines-upon-Thames, Farleigh Rovers in Warlingham, and South Park Reserves based in Reigate.