Football stunned as Stockbridge pull out of Wessex League with immediate effect (From Andover Advertiser)
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Football stunned as Stockbridge pull out of Wessex League with immediate effect
How circumstances can change and fate conspire to throw the future into question can rarely have been more painfully on display than this week as the Wessex League reluctantly bade farewell to Stockbridge FC after months of struggles against the odds.
While that club’s loyal volunteers come to terms with the fact that they will be watching no more senior football at the Rec this season, and their future could involve a return to the Andover and District League, next Tuesday sees what should be a huge crowd at the Portway.
Andover Town take on neighbours Andover Lions in the Andover League Open Cup in front of what could be the biggest crowd at the stadium in many years.
The Robins’ problems have been well documented this season but they came to a head in the week with the realisation that they would not be able to field a side to take on league leaders Andover Town at the Portway last Saturday.
With umpteen league and cup games to play and their ground waterlogged and the changing rooms out of commission due to building work on the new pavilion the committee came to the only viable, but nonetheless heartbreaking decision to pull out of the Wessex League with immediate effect.
Club president Dave Webb issued a statement which said: “Following a football club EMG last Tuesday evening, February 18, it was agreed with great sadness that the club had no option but to withdraw from the Wessex League.
A series of events that have occurred left us with no choice. The two new managers leaving the club at the end of November taking all but two of our players with them left us in a terrible predicament.
Former manager Barry Andrews set about trying to get a squad together to see us through the season - he did a great job and we really appreciate all he did for us.
However, the weather conspired against us and we have had 14 games in a row postponed and the new squad never got to play.
After this time some of the players have drifted away leaving us with a skeleton squad and we were left with 21 games to play to get through the season.
With our pitch still waterlogged and unlikely to be fit for another few weeks we could not see how we could complete our fixtures and with the penalty for missing each game a minimum of £250 we could not risk the club going bankrupt.
Added to this, because of the weather our new changing rooms that should have been finished about now are unlikely to be finished until the end of the season and at this stage of the building progress it is impossible to use one of the original changing rooms.
After taking a long hard look at the situation we concluded that it was in the best interests of everyone that we declared our position early to lessen the inconvenience to other clubs and the league.
This club has a proud 120 year history and what has happened to us hurts, especially for those of us who have been with the club for many years.
We now start the task of rebuilding a senior team with the aim to progress back to the Wessex League.
We are told the FA will decide at what level we may return next season so not much can be done on that front until we know the position.
On the positive side we have six more local people who have joined our committee which will strengthen the club as we work through the current problems.
In the meantime our four youth teams will continue to keep the flag flying for the club.”
In theory the club could be demoted back to the Andover and District League, which they left many moons ago, or could be placed in either division of the Hampshire Premier League.
That would possibly put the old club on the same level as New Street Swifts, who have applied for promotion, and Andover Lions, who are looking for promotion themselves, as well as Overton United who are chasing the Hampshire League and Cup double.
Club chairman Paul Barker told the Advertiser: “It was a combination of the weather and the reality that we could not compete with an untested squad and even if we were able to put a side out it might have made a mockery of the league.”
We had a long, hard look at the situation and knew that it just was not going to happen.
‘Structurally the club is strong and committed to the future and we look forward to the challenge.”