Ninety years of history is under threat after EBAC Northern League club West Allotment Celtic were hit with a large increase in their annual rent at their Whitley Park home.
Their tenants, the Northumberland Football Association, have upped the cost of hiring the facility to £7,500 per season.
That is a 67% increase on the current £4,500 fee that the club have been paying since 2014.
Tuesday brought confirmation from the Ebac Northern League that the club had tendered their resignation from the league.
A statement from the Northern League read “West Allotment Celtic has formally tended the club’s resignation from the Ebac Northern League.
A letter was sent to the league to meet the deadline of March 31, by which date clubs have to inform the league about next season.
The move comes after the club was facing an increase in rent by the Northumberland FA for the use of the Whitley Park ground from £4,500 to £7,500.
Club secretary Ted Ilderton said “It’s a disaster. We just can’t afford that increase. At the moment it looks as though we are going to go, unless we can come to some arrangement. We are still prepared to sit down and talk to them. We would like it to be resolved between us and the county FA.”
He said the club was not prepared to move to the Northern Alliance and other local Northern League clubs were not in a position to help with groundshare arrangements”
NonLeagueDaily.com spoke to club chairman Jim Wilson about the situation and he believes that the club’s future is now in “very serious doubt”.
He said “We are having to resign and probably fold as a senior football team because we can’t meet a 67% increase on our annual rent imposed by the Northumberland Football Association.
“The increase equates to £300 per match over a 25 match season, this is from a charge of £180 per match at present.
“We are very disappointed with the demands of our own football association when they are allegedly supposed to be supporting local football.
“West Allotment Celtic are in season 2017-2018 due to celebrate their 90th season, this is now in very serious doubt”
It is understood that the Northumberland FA will not be releasing a statement as negotiations with the club are “considered to be ongoing”.
The club have been members of the Northern League since 2004, winning the Division Two title in their maiden season.
They remained in the Northern League’s top flight until relegation in 2011, but returned to the top tier when they finished as runners-up to local neighbours North Shields in 2014.
The club look set to return to Division Two this season as they sit second from bottom of the Ebac Northern League Division One table.
They are seven points from safety with four games – ironically all home fixtures – left this season.
However they now they face far more urgent matters than a relegation battle.
Article and Image: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)