EVESHAM United have urged the Football Association to see ‘common sense’ and allow them to remain in the Southern League.
Robins manager Paul Collicutt says the club have been overwhelmed by the show of support from across the non-league world following the FA’s shock decision to move them into Northern Premier League Division One South.
After Southern League Division One South & West champions Cinderford Town decided they did not want to be promoted – after the non-league structure had been confirmed by the FA – Evesham were pushed north.
Evesham’s appeal will be heard by the FA at Wembley on Tuesday and a final decision is expected within 24 hours.
Chairman Jim Cockerton, assisted by club secretary Roger Westmacott, will put forward the Robins’ case, and will say the FA’s own rules do not allow promoted clubs to say ‘no’ to promotion after applying for and meeting the necessary criteria.
Collicutt believes it would be wrong to make Evesham suffer for Cinderford’s decision. He described the FA’s move as ‘a kick in the balls’.
“I hope common sense will prevail,” said the Robins boss. “It’s madness to make us play in the Northern Premier League.
“OK, we are the most northerly team in the South & West Division, but we are a Worcestershire team, not a northern team.
“The FA says the mileage in terms of the journeys between the two leagues will be roughly the same, maybe 50 or 60 miles more, but I can’t see how playing teams in Sheffield, Barnsley or Lincoln makes sense.
“It will cause a lot of problems with the travelling, especially in midweek. We could be getting back home at 1am or 2am and some of our players will face having to book time off before and after if they have to work early.
“There’s also the extra cost of more coaches. In the South & West, ten of our away matches are within roughly an hour’s travelling. If we have to play in the Northern Premier Division One South, then we’ve only got two teams within 50 miles of Evesham.
“I find it hard that Evesham are suffering for the actions of another team. You can’t tell me that nobody within the Cinderford regime or the Cinderford board didn’t have an inkling that they weren’t going to want to be promoted.
“It has shocked everybody. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support from Evesham people, Evesham supporters and the support from fellow managers from opposing clubs.
“Cinderford’s decision has meant basically the whole of last season was a waste of time. Banbury got promoted but everybody else spent a lot of time, effort and money for nothing because of Cinderford. The whole thing is crazy.”
Collicutt makes the case for the FA considering other options, rather than transferring Evesham, such as running with 23 teams next season, or reprieving the relegated Bedworth United, who finished fourth from bottom in the Southern Premier.
Evesham’s appeal date has been brought forward one week from the original June 21 date, because both the Southern League and Northern Premier League have their AGMs next weekend.
Chairman Cockerton said: “We have prepared our case. We can’t do anymore until we have the face-to-face meeting.
“Rule 5.2 states that relegated clubs will be replaced by the league winners or winners of the play-offs. There’s no allowance in the FA rules for a team having applied for promotion and accepted promotion not to go up.
“That’s how it seems to us but I don’t really know what the outcome of our appeal will be. However, if the FA apply their own rules, Cinderford should be promoted.”
Whatever happens, the furore has upset Evesham’s preparations for the new season and Collicutt admits the final decision over their destination for 2016/17 will have an impact on their squad.
Three players travel from Swindon and two from Wales to play for Evesham and there would be a question mark over whether they could do the extra travelling.
“People say the FA are not renowned for changing their minds, but I really hope this time they do,” added Collicutt.