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Football Association says Manchester ground still short of standard for Northern Premier League matches
A GROUND Northwich Victoria wants to call home is still not up to scratch, according to the game’s governing body.
The Football Association has confirmed to the Guardian that Flixton’s Valley Road, where Vics owner Jim Rushe would prefer the team to host opponents this season, is not fit to host Northern Premier League matches.
“A ground must have the appropriate grading by March 31 each year,” said an FA spokesman.
“Flixton did not, so it does not qualify to be used for league matches at Step 4.
“Nor are we aware that any of our inspectors have been to see it since.”
Rushe says he has spent time, and money, improving the facilities there.
In June, an FA panel rejected his appeal to overturn the Northern Premier League’s decision to refuse permission for Vics to play in Greater Manchester instead of Stafford.
Despite that setback he agreed a three-years lease with Flixton Football Leisure, which runs Valley Road on behalf of landowners Trafford Borough Council.
Rushe 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.
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 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 Northern Premier League’s Division One South as well.
Earlier this month Rushe revealed that he intended to ask the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), based in Switzerland, to force the Northern Premier League to sanction a swap from Stafford.
“The court has registered an appeal filed by Northwich Victoria,” read a CAS statement on Saturday.
It has not yet agreed to pass judgement on Vics’ case, nor is it known how quickly a hearing could be arranged if it decides to.
The FA has declined to comment on the matter.
As a result, Andy Mutch’s first match in charge as manager will be played at Vics’ temporary home in Stafford this weekend.
Stamford are the scheduled visitors.
“It has been commonly known for a while that an agreement is in place,” said a spokesman for Stafford.
“Our home games will take full priority, with Northwich’s schedule fitting around ours.
“This business decision has been made in the best interest of our club, and also to help another that has lots of non-league history.”