Following the release of the Ryman League clubs on Monday, we spoke to VCD Athletic manager Paul Foley to get a reaction to the news of relegation due to ground grading.

Vicker’s manager Foley, the son of ex Arsenal Assistant Manager Theo Foley who enjoyed a hugely successful 50 year career in professional football, had this to say in response to the news

‘The club has a definitive record of the events leading up to the notification of relegation, which came a couple of weeks ago before the Ryman League listings I might add.

So in that respect the news was known by the club and myself a couple of weeks ago and the club immediately appealed against the decision which is, to say the very least, very odd when you consider all of the facts and the timetable of events.’

What are the exact reasons cited by the Ryman League for the relegation therefore and is it true that the deadline that was being worked to by the club is all in accordance with FA notification?

‘All as explained before, the ground was signed off last year for promotion to the Ryman and for one reason or another the league decided to re-grade and came up with a list of items for the club to work through.

These included raising handrails, infilling below the handrails, works to the treatment/first aid room and so on.

All of these were completed at serious expense to the club and signed off.

The path was also raised as a concern as it was a cinder path and in need of some maintenance work which was completed by the club bringing the condition of path back to how it was when installed.

The deadline for all of these works was March 31st and with the exception of the path all of the works were signed off as acceptable.

We were then given until 12th June to complete the works to the path which entailed a solid construction, either concrete slab or paved finish, to a width of 1m to three sides of the pitch all as agreed with the FA.

Updates were given to the Ryman and FA on the status of the works with this June deadline in mind.

Moreover at a recent meeting of the Ryman North around 3 weeks ago the chairman was contacted on the phone for an update and explained the same, that the path would be complete by 12th June.’

So can you explain how the Ryman seemingly performed a u-turn on previous agreements and determined that the club would be put up for relegation?

‘No, you will have to ask the Ryman League that one.

We have a letter on file which I have a copy of, from the FA dated 12th April 2010 that clearly states that, given that the perimeter path had been worked on at the time of inspection on 1st April and restored, that an extension to 12th June would be granted to meet Grade D criteria, if necessary as a three sided ground.

That essentially means we needed to provide a concrete path 1m wide to three sides of the pitch to achieve Grade D.

That is in black and white on headed paper with the Wembley Stadium logo and signed by a ground grading co-ordinator.

The club who have acted in good faith and using reasonable endeavours at every step of the way then procured an expensive solution to the footpath, abandoning the compacted cinder path and constructing a solid concrete footpath to the entire perimeter of the pitch and surrounding areas at a width of 2m.

Now anyone who works in construction will know that nearly 450 metres of 2m wide path with all of the sub-base material, formwork and concrete involved is a large sum of money.

Why would the club embark on such an expense if they did not have documentary proof that they were working to a June deadline?

That is aside from the sizable expenses incurred over the course of the season which the league have inspected and signed off.

Again, why would the club embark on such a programme of work and expense if they had no intention of trying to meet the Grading criteria.

It is clear that the club were acting diligently to meet the requirements placed before them.

This is all aside from the fact that the ground had been deemed suitable only a year before.

Now if you can explain all of that you are a smarter man than me.’ Where does this leave the club now and have all of the works to the path been completed?

‘It leaves the club in limbo at the moment to be honest and dependent on the views of the FA Appeals committee.

As someone who is involved in matters of litigation and expert witness work in my day job I will be very interested to understand how the FA deal with the letter as issued by their ground grading department as this is clearly a key admissible document.

As for the works to the path they are practically complete, due for completion by the end of the week I believe and photos of completed sections have been sent to the Ryman League and the FA.

It is significant in my eyes that the club have gone further than required by providing concrete paths to the entire perimeter when only three sides were required and at a width of 2m when only 1m was required.

This would appear to be a clear demonstration of intent to comply with the required grading and go even further than required.’

What are the next steps for the club and is this a hammer blow for the team and club as a whole?

‘As I said we cannot do anything until we know the outcome of the appeal process.

Given the hard facts available the club are quite clear on how far they will take this and they will not be taking this lying down.

If it is necessary to pursue other avenues of appeal for example then I am sure the club will look to proceed with these options.

Obviously we hope that the appeal process is successful.

The lads are all astounded at the way things have turned out as we have been keeping them informed on proceedings every step of the way and let’s not forget they all hung about when we halved our expenses budget at the end of January to £500 a week to fund the works so they have invested in the club too.

When you consider we were thrown four fixtures in a week for some weeks but players were then getting a tenner a game this means the lads were effectively paying to play when you totalled their petrol, train fares and so on.

That isn’t an issue when there is a meaning to it all and they were superb in taking it on board, being loyal and performing right till the end but when you find out it is all for nothing, it is a little bit galling to say the least.

It is not the players or us that it is really affecting though, it is the chairman Gary Rump and the club generally that I feel for as he has put his heart and soul into getting us where we are and he was determined to keep us there this season.

He has undoubtedly invested his time and money on the back of advice from the FA so he is the one with the biggest gripe, not me or the players.’

What about the suggestion that there are a number of clubs that still exist in the Ryman North that have grounds that do not meet Grade D criteria?

‘Look, I am not going to start listing clubs that have this or that but rest assured we have a definitive schedule prepared.

There is little merit in dragging others into the argument as we have an appeal process running for the ruling on our ground but if needed we will produce any proof obtained.

You don’t have to be an expert to work your way around the grounds to see those that are in breach which makes the treatment of our club so strange with its new facilities, new floodlight, a superb pitch and so on.

It is not a hollow boast to say ours is one of the better grounds in the league as we are commonly told how good that it is by fellow Ryman North teams!’

‘There is clearly something wrong with the whole situation as it just does not add up especially when you consider the league have reprieved a club that has major financial problems and our club tries to improve year on year without any similar irregularities.

It makes you wonder what sort of clubs are wanted in the league and what our relatively small club has done to get this type of treatment.

If you are a football fan then you would recognise the injustive that is prevalent here’ So with a candid response from the manager and on the face of it, strong grounds for appeal the proviso to the lists of clubs issued by the Ryman League on Monday carries more reasoning with the words

‘there a number of outstanding issues still to be resolved and the listings may be subject to subsequent change’.

Judging by the treatment of VCD by the Ryman League there are clearly a number of issues to be resolved and it would be reasonable to assume that the listings may change.

It would appear that the Ryman League have acted independently to the FA on this issue so it will be very interesting to see how this process unravels. will bring you regular updates as and when they are received.