COMBINED Counties Football League side Westfield have thrown down the gauntlet in the race to gain promotion to the Ryman (Isthmian) Football League, writes Andy Fitzsimons.
The Woking-based club made clear its intentions to The Football Association (The FA) before the 30 November deadline to play at the next level of the National League System – despite being adrift of Hartley Wintney in the title race.
FA rules stipulate that, clubs who apply and finish in the top three of the Combined Counties League (step 5), will be eligible for promotion if their grounds meet the necessary ground grading by 31 March 2017.
And for Westfield, the chance to gain promotion to the upper tier in non-league football could be fast-tracked if Hartley Wintney are again unable to complete the necessary improvements to their ground prior to the inspection.
Clubs eligible to play at step 4, which comprises The Ryman (Isthmian) Foootball League, The Evo-Stik (Southern) Football League and The Ebac (Northern) Football League, must hold a minimum D-grade certificate, something that Westfield could achieve within the 16-week timeframe.
But with Westfield’s ground falling under the jurisdiction of Woking Borough Council, they will need to prove that they are not exempt from the Landlord and Tenants Act 1954, which would preclude them from having the right to renew their lease.
Westfield’s Woking Park home will also require a safety certificate to show it can accommodate at least 1,300 spectators. Rules stipulate that there must also be the potential to increase the capacity to 1,950 in the future.
Other ground works required for clubs moving from step 5 to step 4 involve an increase of their covered accommodation to 300 – of which 150 must be seated – housed in no more than two stands. Further consideration must be given to at least 12 seated visiting officials.
Entrance and egress points should be placed in appropriate positions around the boundary of the ground and take into account the requirements of segregation, which would definitely require Westfield to erect a second turnstile.
League rules at step 4 also require clubs to have outdoor water closet facilities for male and female use, and a dedicated boardroom, which will also need to be added to the list of shopping items over the winter period.
It’s reportedly the first time that Westfield has applied to The FA to gain promotion, which is testament how far the club has come in recent years, and even more so over the past nine months.
However, if Westfield can recapture their early season form, it’s not without possibility that The Yellows could be playing the likes of the Met. Police and Harrow Borough next season, even if they fail to move Wintney from top-spot.