Football: End in sight to the Barrow saga

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The Independent Online
THERE IS at last some light at the end of the tunnel for Barrow, the former Football League club who have spent the summer trying to find a league to play in this season.

The Bluebirds finished last term one place above the relegation zone in the Nationwide Conference, but were subsequently expelled from the league at its annual general meeting. The Cumbrian club had gone into liquidation, and the new outfit set up to play football at Holker Street was rejected by other Conference member sides.

It seemed probable that, like other clubs before them such as Aldershot Town and Newport AFC, the Cumbrian team would have to start again at the bottom of the non-League pyramid. The First North Western Trains League even produced a provisional fixture list for the season which included Barrow, who were given a home fixture against Formby tomorrow.

Then the Football Association intervened. After talks with the club and with Conference officials, the game's governing body ruled that Barrow should play this season at the level they would have occupied had they been relegated from the Conference ordinarily: the UniBond League Premier Division. The UniBond initially refused to accept Barrow - and was last week threatened with suspension by the FA. That would have meant the postponement of tomorrow's opening round of fixtures and the exclusion of clubs in the league from the FA Cup.

This week the FA has rejected Barrow's appeal against their expulsion from the Conference, but it has softened its stance towards the UniBond. The governing body has withdrawn its threat to suspend the league's clubs, so tomorrow's fixtures will take place - but without Barrow.

Instead, the Bluebirds will hold talks with the UniBond League over the next few days. If an agreement is reached, they could take their place in the league by the end of the month - although they may have to settle for a place in the First, rather than the Premier, Division.

Tomorrow week UniBond member clubs will attend a special meeting at which they will, if discussions go to plan, vote to admit Barrow - although some sides, notably Leek Town, are still opposed to their presence in the league.

The Conference season also kicks off tomorrow. Scarborough mark their return to the non-League game after a 12-year absence with a home fixture against Yeovil Town.