Football: Macclesfield's grievance

Non-league football
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Like Kidderminster Harriers last season, Macclesfield Town are firm favourites to claim the GM Vauxhall Conference title - yet they already know that promotion to the Endsleigh League is beyond their reach this season.

Nine points clear of second-placed Southport with two games in hand, the Cheshire club failed to bring their Moss Rose stadium up to standard by the League's 31 December deadline and so - unless Macclesfield let their lead slip and are overtaken by one of the clubs with approved grounds - for the second season running no club will be relegated from the League.

Macclesfield feel particularly aggrieved because their ground was used for League football by Chester City as recently as 1992. "The criteria have changed since then," Arthur Jones, Macclesfield's chairman, said yesterday. "Our ground was not graded until August last year, and we have since suffered from constructors' delays. The League won't even let us share with Chester, because we hadn't reached an agreement with them by the end of December."

On Wednesday, accompanied by the town's MP, Nicholas Winterton, the Macclesfield chairman met the Minister for Sport, Iain Sproat, at the House of Commons to put their case. "It was a positive meeting, and he promised to write to the Football League," Jones said.

Unlike those in the Premiership and the English and Scottish Leagues, Conference clubs do not receive guaranteed grant aid for ground improvements from the Football Trust. "We don't know from one season to the next how much money, if any, we will get," Jones said. A further injustice is that, unlike clubs at every other level of non-League football, Conference teams do not receive any funds from the National Lottery.

Tomorrow Macclesfield turn their attention to the FA Umbro Trophy - they visit Ashton United, one of the former clubs of their manager, Sammy McIlroy, in the second round.

ENGLAND SEMI-PROFESSIONAL SQUAD (v Wales, Yeovil Town FC, 28 February): S Farrelly (Macclesfield), L Batty (Woking); S Hodson, R Forsyth, D Humphreys, P Webb (all Kidderminster), A Reid (Altrincham), S Holden, I Arnold (both Kettering), K Brown (Woking),C Browne (Dover), S Stott (Bromsgrove), M Hine (Gateshead), L May (Stafford), L Watson (Marine).