Homelands Stadium: It doesn’t matter if it is the courtroom or the pitch, Ashford will fight whatever hurdle is thrown in front of them, insists a defiant manager Danny Lye
Stadium owners have said that they will be committed to doing everything within their power to ensure that football can continue to be played at The Homelands for the benefit of all.
Glyn Jones, the director of Chesterfield based Minotaur Clubs Partnership and V Bar Limited, has issued a statement concerning the present situation at the venue in Kingsnorth.
“There has in recent days been much speculation in relation to the position at The Homelands following the League suspension due to the physical state of the 3G Pitch,” said Mr Jones.
“When Minotaur Clubs Partnership Limited were forced to take control of The Homelands it was due to various regulatory breaches including having no alcohol licence for 14 months or liability insurance for the premises.
“Since taking over, substantial sums of money have been provided by Minotaur to pay for the remedial work that was needed to keep the ground useable and there is much, much more required in the immediate future following a lack of investment and maintenance by the previous owners.
“The current estimate is that £220,000 will be required to pay for essential repairs and rectification in the off-season.
“Any pitch is required to be certified by the League and FA in order to allow it to be used. Unfortunately following the deterioration of the pitch following its original installation the pitch was deemed unsuitable by the League. The pitch will require significant investment to have the issues rectified to FA standard and we instructed a team of experts to inspect the pitch to assist in identification of the problems.
“The main problem with the pitch is the irregularity of the playing surface as a result of issues with the subbase/foundation level having not been laid correctly. Essentially the laying of the 3G pitch was a ‘DIY job’, a term coined by Tony Day, the secretary of the Southern Counties East Football League.
“In a recent article the Southern Counties East Football League were quoted as saying ‘at present fixtures at Homelands have not been suspended as the pitch is not in a ‘dangerous’ state. Certainly, the surface is less ‘dangerous’ than many of the grass pitches’. There has therefore been no danger incurred to any person playing on the surface.
“We are pleased to announce that in the meantime we have successfully applied for temporary dispensation from The FA which has been granted.
“We continue to be committed to doing everything within our power to ensure that football can continue to be played at The Homelands for the benefit of all.”
League secretary, Tony Day said: “The FA have confirmed that the application for re-entry on their Register of Football Turf Pitches by dispensation of The Homelands pitch has been successful.
“There is, therefore, no restriction on games being played at the stadium. The League is satisfied that Homelands Stadium complies with all its requirements as such as any other club’s ground complies.”
A statement, which was issued by Ashford United, added: “Fans may have recently read that it has been suggested by some that there are problems connected with Homelands such as lack of insurance cover among over deficiencies.
“Everyone at the club would like to thank fans for their patience whilst we look into this situation behind the scenes.”
On the pitch, Ashford United will lock horns with Canterbury City in the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Semi-Finals on Saturday 11 February after coming away from Whitstable Town with a 1-0 win in midweek, despite having nine men.
The winners will face Deal Town or Cray Valley (Paper Mills) in the Final, after they defeated Sevenoaks Town and Lordswood respectively.
Manager Danny Lye has done an excellent job in putting the club’s off-the-field issues to the back of his mind over the past couple of seasons and has guided Ashford United to the top of the table, with 55 points from 23 games, a point clear of Crowborough Athletic and three points clear of Sevenoaks Town, who both have a game in hand over them.
A defiant Lye said: “People like you are important for non-league clubs when there are rumours. After all the rumours regarding Ashford United, it is pretty clear there is plenty of fight left in the tank.
“After a year of negative talk surrounding the club it seems the club will not lay down and get beaten very easily. It doesn’t matter if it is the courtroom or the pitch, Ashford will fight whatever hurdle is thrown in front of them.
“That has been clear on the pitch recently with a decent run of form. Most recently, the 1-0 cup victory at Whitstable on a wet and muddy night where we were reduced to nine men but still came away with the victory.
“We won’t roll over and lose any battle on the pitch without a fight. I always played to win the battle and I make sure my team carries that over the line onto the pitch.
“We played with a more direct approach on Tuesday night and won all the second balls for most of the match beating Whitstable at their own game.
“We as a club and playing squad have had to listen to lots of negative rubbish over the last year but all that does is gives us more strength to ensure we give the fans what they want and to give the people stirring the pot a simple answer – we are here to win!”
Ashford United nor Lye nor the owners have confirmed whether the club will win promotion into the Ryman League should they finish top of the pile at the end of the season.
When asked “what has the club told you regarding promotion into the Ryman?
“I will tell you a week on Friday about promotion,” replied Lye, who takes his side to Erith & Belvedere’s Park View Road ground in the League on Sunday.
“Can’t tell you until next Friday.”
Visit Ashford United’s website: www.ashfordunitedfc.com