The board of directors of Darlington FC has today lodged an appeal to the FA against the decision to deny Quakers a place in the National League North play offs.
Here is a summary of that appeal (please note that the club will be making no further comment on any of its media outlets as per FA instructions).
Summary of Notice of Appeal to Football Association
- The appeal is against the decision of the National League dated 12th of April 2017 regarding the absence at Blackwell Meadows of 500 covered seats, preventing participation in the National League play-offs.
- The main ground of appeal is in accordance with the National League rules (Rule 17.4 and Appendix 1) in that the National League came to a decision to which no reasonable body could have come.
- The facts being relied upon:
i) The Board took the decision to relocate to Blackwell Meadows after several years of consideration and discussion. Heritage Park is a Category C ground, and if the club had remained playing there and not undertaken significant ground improvements by 31 March 2017 it may well have been relegated to the Evostik Premier League in May 2017.
ii) In or around July 2016 a decision was taken to reduce the seated stand capacity from 600 seats to 294 seats. This was down to affordability, and the fact that Football Stadia Improvement Fund finance was not available for more than 250 seats, given that only 250 covered seats were required as part of Category B ground grading requirements. The focus at the time was on achieving Category B, and the requirement for 500 covered seats was not picked up.
iii) On 19th December 2016 the ground grading inspection occurred at Blackwell Meadows and the report arrived on 21st December 2016. That report made reference to a requirement to have “500 seats” in order to participate in the play offs, but no reference was made in that report to requiring the seats to be “covered”.
iv) Reference was made by the Board to the Inspection Team of the availability of a 312 seater stand available at Heritage Park. The Board believed that this would have enabled Blackwell Meadows to easily achieve 500 seats. A quotation was obtained for the uplifting and installation of the seats which amounted to £33,000 including VAT.
v) In mid-February 2017 correspondence with the National League first referred to “covered” seats and at the end of February 2017 the Board reviewed in full the Category B grading requirements and confirmed that on the face of those rules participation in the playoffs might not be possible
vi) The Board engaged with the National League senior executive, but it was only on the 12th of April 2017 that formal written confirmation was received about exclusion from the playoffs.
4. The main arguments being made in support of the appeal are:
i) The Board relied upon the ground grading report that referred to “500 seats”
ii) The rule requiring additional seating in excess of the Category B requirements is only applied at this tier. At other tiers, promoted clubs have until 31st of March in the year following promotion in order to meet any additional ground grading standards.
iii) In order for clubs to participate in the National League North/South playoffs they are effectively required to invest significant amounts of money on covered seating with no guarantee of a playoff spot as of 31st of March in that season, let alone promotion.
20 April 2017