St Helens Town have announced there will be a further delay in playing home games at the new Ruskin Drive complex in the town.
By now, the plan was that first team games would be staged there, but club officials met with the Council last Friday (3rd February) and it has now been confirmed that the work required to meet the FA Ground Grading requirements will not be completed until mid-May 2017.
While the ground is currently being used by the club’s U18s, U21s and Sunday teams the prolonged delays to the completion of the new dressing room facilities and a problem with the height of the pitch perimeter fence have left the club frustrated that the first team will have an extended wait to make a return home.
The delay will mean a number of issues for Town, including the need to secure alternative playing facilities for next season to ensure they do not fall foul of the FA and NWCFL ground requirements.
As the Ruskin Drive Sports ground will not be in a position to be inspected by the 31st March deadline, the club needs to have a ground sharing agreement in place at a suitable alternative ground to maintain their membership of the league and guarantee entry to FA competitions.
Club Chairman John McKiernan said: “The news is very disappointing and a real blow to our plans.
“We’ve relied on the goodwill and support of a number of clubs over the past six years and are indebted to those clubs in ensuring the survival of the club – their assistance should not be underestimated.’
“We’ve accepted the guarantee that the ground will be ready in May and therefore the reality is that we will never need to utilise any ground sharing agreement, but it still has to be in place or we could be in serious trouble”.
The club will also lose out on a lucrative fixture as part of the Hallmark Security League Easter weekend Ground Hop. Town were due to host promotion chasing City of Liverpool at Ruskin Drive as the second of three Ground Hop fixtures in the area on Easter Sunday which would have seen up to 300 ‘hoppers’ part of a likely four-figure crowd.
John added: “We had expected to be on the new ground some time earlier this season but delays have shifted from weeks to months. The loss of the Ground Hop fixture is both hugely disappointing and financially disastrous, losing the club thousands of pounds.
“Given our opposition was City of Liverpool FC, who are very well supported, plus hundreds of ground hoppers and a lot of local interest, this was guaranteed to be bumper crowd and an ideal way to showcase the club and the new Ruskin Drive Sports Ground facility.
“Unfortunately, we had no other option but to inform the League that we would not be able to participate in the Ground Hop programme.’
The majority of Town’s remaining ten home fixtures will be played at Volair Park, home of Prescot Cables with the exception of two current fixture clashes, when Town will be required to relocate. One such clash this Saturday (11th February) Town will host Silsden at Edge Green Street, home of Ashton Town FC.