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.
Non-League Daily approached the league for a statement and a spokesman said “Regrettably West Allotment Celtic, in accordance with the Northern League’s rules, submitted their resignation on 29th March 2017.
“The club felt that the decision, which will take effect from the end of the 2016/17 season, had been forced upon them by the Northumberland FA’s ground rent demands for next season which showed a 66.7% increase on the current season with a further increase planned for the 2018/19 season, a rise they felt was both exorbitant and one they could not afford.
“Given the circumstances and after consultation with the club itself, the league has been in contact with the FA and are still awaiting their reply but we remain hopeful that the matter can be amicably resolved and that the club will be in a position to withdraw their resignation at the appropriate time before the AGM and take their place in the league at the start of the next season.”
Club secretary Ted Ilderton commented “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)