FA are warned they could kill off cash-strapped Thurlow Nunn First Division Downham Town

Downham Town (red) v Halstead Town last season. Picture: Ian Burt

Downham Town (red) v Halstead Town last season. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Downham Town's future is on the line after being threatened with relegation by the FA.

The Thurlow Nunn First Division outfit must complete a number of improvements to their council-owned ground – which they share with the town's cricket club – by March 31 or risk being demoted. Cash-strapped Downham now face a race against time to find at least £5,000 to fund the work as well as getting it completed.

Secretary George Dickson said: 'The club has got a gun held to its head. We feel the FA have got all their priorities wrong. If you look at their inspection report you can see the clubhouse, changing room and referee's room are criteria we pass on.

'Our facilities are way better than some other teams we visit. So there appears to be a lack of consistency in what actually makes the grade.'

On the pitch Town, 10th, are on course for their best season in recent memory. But that work could all be undone if nine missing criteria to fulfil a Category G ground-grading status – including the installation of a 900mm wide path behind the dugouts and a 'paybox' for an official at the gate to sit in while taking money – are not met.

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'If we get relegated Downham Town will fold,' said Dickson.

'A big percentage of players, who have been loyal to our club, would leave. We'd have to start from scratch and it would leave the small group of people who work tirelessly behind the scenes wondering why should we bother?'

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Officials could apply for a grant from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF) to help finance the developments. However, that would mean a further three-year wait to try and secure future support which could hamper any long-term ambitions of one day playing at a fully enclosed ground.

A Thurlow Nunn League spokesman said: 'The suggestion of relegation came out of the blue. The picture is unclear as to whether clubs will be relegated or not but we have visited Downham and we are confident that the necessary work will be completed by March 31. The league are very supportive of the clubs involved and we wish to help them in any way we can. If the FA were to enforce relegation we would make strong representations to avoid our clubs being demoted.'

An FA spokesman confirmed that all clubs – thought to include March Town United, despite them being in the process of having a new clubhouse built – are aware of the time frame to complete the necessary ground grading work.

The FA Leagues Committee will meet tonight to consider their inspection results.

Call Dickson on 07841934026 if you can help Downham in any way.

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