DROITWICH Spa have announced they will be ground-sharing with Stourport Swifts next season.
Club officials said they have taken the ‘difficult decision’ of playing at Walshes Meadow for the 2017/18 Midland League Division Two campaign as £1.5m worth of development is being done on the King George Playing Fields to bring it up to standard.
The future of the Saltmen had been in doubt after they were deducted three points by the Midland League for fielding the suspended Max Crisp in their fixtures on February 11, February 18 and February 25 last season.
The midfielder, according to Midland League officials, should not have been played after he received a red card in a 4-0 win at Bloxwich Town in January.
Spa submitted an appeal to the Football Association in a bid to prove their innocence.
However, following the conclusion of the appeal on June 6, they were found guilty of the offences and docked three points from their playing record.
The deduction meant Spa were stripped of their Division Two title triumph and dropped to third in the league table, missing out on promotion by one point.
Paget Rangers went up as champions while Alvis Sporting Club claimed the runners-up spot and second promotion place.
The Saltmen then held a crunch meeting three days later to discuss the future of the 35-year-old club and following those talks, chairman Peter Lemon released a statement saying that everyone is committed to claiming success next season.
However, he felt Spa had been the ‘victims’ of the process but acknowledged the club’s own part for not suspending Crisp immediately.
The statement by Lemon read: “Droitwich Spa wish to make the following statement in relation to the charge brought against us by the Midland Football League, which resulted in a points deduction.
“Following the sending off of a player in the away game against Bloxwich Town on January 28, the team was subsequently deducted three points by the league for playing this player in three matches whilst he should have been suspended as a result of the sending off.
“We have never hidden the fact that we had a player sent off and we knew that the player would need to serve a suspension.
“However, the referee’s match report was submitted a number of weeks later and this triggered the charge under FA regulations many weeks after the offence – a charge based on a ‘matter of fact’.
“The County FA disciplinary hearing found the charge proven but noted the club’s previous impeccable record and we received the minimum punishment, which was a warning as to future conduct and the player received an additional one-game suspension.
“We subsequently contacted the MFL and were notified that no further action would be taken.
“However, two weeks after our last game of the season the club was notified by the league that they had reversed their decision to take no further action and issued us three charges of playing an ineligible player.
“Appeals by the club to the League and FA resulted in the team being deducted three points from a possible nine, seeing us end the season in third place.
“Despite noting the leniency shown by both the league and County FA, we feel we have been the victims of process, however, we acknowledge our part in not suspending the player immediately ourselves.
“The club has been overwhelmed by the words of support that we have received from across the football community and our supporters.
“We must now put this behind us and move on to focus on the season ahead, and the club will make no further comment on the issue.”
Lemon added: “On a positive note we have just been awarded the Division Two Fair Play Award for the second year running.
“Everyone at the club is committed to making next season as successful as the last, which despite the points deduction, was the most successful in its history.
“We have thrown our hat into the ring for a place in the FA Vase, and, if accepted, it will be the first time a club from Droitwich will have played in the competition.
“Plans are still progressing at pace with the development of King George’s and as such, we have taken the difficult decision to play our games at Stourport Swifts next season, to allow work to get under way.
“We hope our many loyal supporters will make the journey to Stourport to cheer on the team whilst King George’s is being developed.”
The Saltmen have also confirmed their pre-season:
Sat, July 15 – Malvern Town (H) – 3pm KO
Wed, July 19 – Stourport Swifts (A) – 7.30pm KO
Sat, July 22 – FC Stratford (H) – 3pm KO
Sat, Aug 5 – Bewdley Town (A) – 3pm KO
All Spa’s home pre-season friendlies will be played at the King George Playing Fields.