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Northwich Victoria to ask for arbitration using FA rules after Court of Arbitration for Sport closes case file
NORTHWICH Victoria will ask experts trained to solve sporting conflicts to give their verdict on where the team should play its home matches this season.
The club, currently hosting opponents at Stafford Rangers’ ground, plans to invite both the Football Association and the Northern Premier League to attend independent arbitration.
It could serve papers on both before the month’s end.
“This is not the first time we’ve looked at this option,” said Graham Bean, whose Football Factors firm will represent Vics.
“We asked the league to attend voluntary arbitration with us before, but it refused.
“That’s a pity because the matter could have been resolved some time ago. Instead it has gone on and on.”
Mr Bean applied to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), based in Switzerland, to intervene only for that body to rule earlier this week that it could not.
Nor has it responded to the Guardian’s request for an explanation.
A league statement, issued on Tuesday night, read: “CAS has confirmed it does not have jurisdiction to entertain an appeal filed by Northwich Victoria.
“Therefore the case has been terminated.”
Mr Bean said CAS had recognised that the FA’s own rules provided an alternative remedy.
Vics owner Jim Rushe asked the league in June to allow Northwich use a pitch in Greater Manchester that used to be home to North West Counties League club Flixton.
But officials refused, saying the request was made too late for a ground not up to scratch to host matches at a higher level.
An FA panel agreed at an appeal later the same month.
The Guardian has asked the governing body to publish a copy of the written reasons for its decision, but has yet to receive a response.
Despite that, Mr Rushe agreed a three-years lease with Flixton Football Leisure, which runs Valley Road on behalf of landowners Trafford Borough Council.
He says it would be better commercially and logistically for Northwich, evicted from the Victoria Stadium in January after land on which it is built was bought by a firm based next door, to be based there.
He has spent time, and money, improving the facilities.
No FA inspector has approved any of the changes, although Rushe says he invited one to visit.
Asked to verify that claim earlier this week, the FA has not yet replied.
“I find it hard to comprehend how the FA can come to a conclusion regarding the ground’s suitability for Step 4 when they have not viewed it,” said Mr Bean.
He will invoke FA rule K, which permits independent specialists to examine a decision taken by football authorities.
They can only rule on whether the league and FA’s decision is invalid under English law, or that either of those bodies has not followed correctly its procedures.
If Football Factors submits Vics’ case before the end of next week, then a decision could be made in September.
Hearings are held in secret.
“Until we’ve read Vics’ file then we can’t comment further,” said a league spokesman.
Rushe addressed the league’s management committee last month, offering to subsidise the travel costs for teams that would travel further north to play at Flixton.
It members were not persuaded to change their mind, saying the FA panel’s ruling to back the league’s original refusal had closed the matter.
Vics’ owner acted quickly in March to find an alternative host after his first choice, Skelmersdale United’s West Lancashire College Stadium, was rated unfit by inspectors.
He says he picked Stafford, more than 40 miles from town, because the team were on course to be promoted to the Football Conference, so needed a temporary home fit for a higher level.
However the players, second on the pitch to champions Chester, were barred from taking part in the play-offs as part of the club’s punishment for breaking finance rules.
Vics suffered a forced demotion to the league’s Division One South as well.
A crowd of 86 watched Saturday’s campaign curtain-raiser at Stafford, when Stamford were the visitors.
Never before has such a small number of supporters watched Northwich play a league match.