IT hasn’t been a very good 48 hours for the two Wearside teams which compete in the Ebac Northern League, writes Malcolm Pratt.
At a meeting of the Management Committee on Thursday night, Ryhope CW were ‘relegated’ from Division Two and Sunderland RCA were penalised with a three point deduction and ordered to replay a game, which means that their total has been reduced by six points.
Last April, Ryhope celebrated when they were promoted as champions from the Wearside League, but a year on they could find themselves back where they were.
As a condition of entry into Division Two of the ENL they were informed that they needed to improve their facilities to meet the ground grading criteria.
They had until March 31 to carry out the work, but they were unable to do so and as a consequence they will be compulsorily relegated if the FA’s league committee ratifies the decision at its meeting on May 17.
ENL chairman Mike Amos said: “The club attended our meeting on Thursday and offered reasons why the necessary work hadn’t been done. They were honest and very dignified. We took our decision in accordance with FA rules and if it is supported, Ryhope will be relegated to a level to be decided by the FA.”
The outcome could be heartbreaking for manager Martin Swales, his team, club officials and supporters, especially as Ryhope are guaranteed to finish in the top two, but equally may result in the fourth-top side being promoted.
Ahead of today’s programme, the three sides immediately behind champions-elect Crook Town and Ryhope have the same number of points.
Morpeth are third by virtue of having a slightly better goals difference than Jarrow Roofing. Both teams have three games to play while Darlington RA, with just one fixture remaining, are fourth.
The three teams fighting to avoid the drop will also be keeping an anxious eye on developments.
Willington (Wearside League) and Heaton Stannington (Northern Alliance) have applied for promotion, but neither have yet had a final inspection by the FA who will decide whether or not their facilities meet the required standards.
Normally, the bottom two would be relegated, but if Ryhope are compulsorily sent down, then it’s likely that only one, Horden CW, Alnwick Town or Esh Winning will lose their place.
Sunderland RCA, meanwhile, are now well and truly embroiled in a battle to avoid joining Norton and Stockton Ancients and South Shields in Division Two.
For the first time this season the Wearsiders are in the bottom three, five points behind fourth-from-basement Newcastle Benfield, having played an equal number of matches as the Tynesiders.
RCA’s problems eminate from the fact that they played Scott Richards against Billingham Town on April 5 when he was banned.
The Wearsiders won the game 1-0 and immediately afterwards the mistake was revealed which could have far reaching consequences.
Today, RCA host Billingham Synthonia and with only three games to play, including the replay against Billingham Town, it has become a must-win match.