Non-league notebook: Newport return to Wales

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DELAYED kick-offs caused by crowd congestion are hardly a common occurrence in the Beazer Homes League Midland Division, but that was what happened at Spytty Park on Tuesday when Newport AFC made a triumphant return to their home town after two years of enforced exile, writes Rupert Metcalf.

Watched by a crowd of 2,475, Newport beat Redditch 4-0 in their first match at their new pounds 3m stadium. For the last two seasons, Newport have been playing their home games at Gloucester City, having been banished from their own land by the Football Association of Wales (FAW) because of their refusal to join the Konica League of Wales.

Last month, however, Newport and two Northern Premier League clubs, Caernarfon Town and Colwyn Bay, won a temporary High Court injunction allowing them to return to their own grounds without abandoning the English non- League pyramid.

The full court hearing will be held early next year, so the three exiles cannot be certain of home advantage all season. They are suing the FAW for unfair restraint of trade and loss of earnings, the FAW is responding with claims that judgement in favour of the exiles could lead to an exodus of Welsh clubs to English leagues, and Uefa, the European governing body, withdrawing recognition of the League of Wales.

'Both sides are preparing to return to the High Court,' David Hando, the Newport chairman, said yesterday, 'but we would prefer an out- of-court settlement, on the right terms.' For the moment, however, his club, formed after the collapse of Newport County, are enjoying their first taste of action in Wales since they were obliged to leave the now-derelict Somerton Park in 1992.