Football: Promotion ban stuns Merthyr

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The Independent Online
MERTHYR TYDFIL, two points clear at the top of the Dr Martens League, will be not be promoted to the GM Vauxhall Conference if they win the title.

The Welsh outfit were shocked to be told last week that they do not meet the Conference's promotion criteria. The main stumbling block is that the current Merthyr club had not been trading for one year prior to the deadline of 1 April set by the GMVC. The club underwent a change of ownership last year, and Merthyr Tydfil FC 1997 was registered as a new company on 28 April.

Peter Hunt, Merthyr's secretary, described the promotion ban as "totally out of order". He pointed out that the club have spent a considerable sum improving their stadium, Penydarren Park, so that it is up to Conference standards, and he insisted that Merthyr were not a new club, but an old club under new management.

Merthyr have now learned that Conference officials will pay them a ground- grading visit next Monday, despite the promotion ban. "I hope that means there could be a change of heart," Hunt said yesterday.

However, the Conference secretary, John Moules, explained that it was common practice to check out grounds of all clubs who had applied for promotion, whether or not they were in a position to go up. He added that there were unspecified "other reasons", apart from the new-club issue, for the promotion ban.

Merthyr have threatened to go to court to secure a place in the GMVC should they win the Dr Martens. Moules stressed, though, that "legal action would in breach of the agreement they signed when they applied for promotion." Their only route of appeal is via the Football Association - but that is complicated by the fact that they are not members of the FA.

Merthyr's only realistic rivals for the Dr Martens title are Forest Green Rovers, who are two points adrift in second place and still have to play the Welsh side twice this season. Rovers' ground, The Lawn, was passed by the GMVC on Wednesday - they could now go up even if they finish second.

There was good news for Halifax Town, who were told yesterday that the Football League will admit them to the Third Division if they win the Conference, following an inspection of their Shay stadium. They lead the Conference by 10 points.