The relegation of local non-league team Aylesbury FC has sparked national outrage after they said it is ‘unavoidable’ as they cannot make their changing rooms bigger in time to meet new Football Association regulations.
Changing rooms currently need to be a minimum of 12 square metres in the seventh and eighth tiers, but that will increase to 18 square metres by March 31. Clubs that fail to complete the work by the end of July will be relegated.
A club statement from the Moles said: “The club unfortunately very soon realised that the deadline was simply not achievable.
“Although all the people involved with the club are obviously devastated by this situation, we are even more committed now to ensuring the future of Aylesbury FC, taking a step backwards to once again move forward.”
Aylesbury, currently a point outside the relegation zone in Division One Central of the Southern League, said that while their home and away changing rooms are ‘very close’ to the minimum requirements, their room for match officials would need ‘major reconstruction’ to meet the requirement of six square metres.
The FA wrote to a number of non-league clubs on the issue in October but say notice of the change was given in 2014, and clubs can apply for up to 70 per cent of the funding for any work through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund.
Clubs must deliver planning permission, if required, proof of funding and a completed, enforceable contract to both the FA and their league by the end of March.
“The change was to accommodate increased squad sizes, more medical equipment and an improved environment for players,” the FA said.
“This is a mandatory requirement from those leagues and the vast majority have already achieved this.”
Manager Paul Bonham has committed to the club despite the news. He said: “It has been a very long 24 hours since I was made aware of the club’s decision to accept automatic relegation.
“It is obviously terrible news as I believe we as a squad would have got out of trouble, as all the hard work the players and management staff have put in was finally paying off.
“I have now made the decision to stay at the club, I’m under no illusion how tough it might be but I owe it to the committee for the faith they have put in me. The players were informed of the news last night and decisions will be made by them as individuals as to whether they move on or not.
“I would love to keep the squad together and go out with a bang but I totally understand this is not possible.
“We will continue to work hard with the players in training and will continue to make sure we are as organised as possible when preparing for our fixtures.”