Norton United: Non-league club to fold over rent dispute
Norton United, who reached the FA Cup first round earlier this season, are to close at the end of the campaign.
The eighth-tier club are opting to fold as they cannot afford to pay rent of up to £20,000 a season on their ground in Smallthorne, in the northern outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent.
Norton left the Norton Cricket Club & Miners Welfare Institute in December after a dispute with the ground owners.
They have since been sharing at Lyme Valley Stadium, home of Newcastle Town.
At the end of their 26th season since being formed in 1989, the club will call time on themselves following their long-running rent dispute with the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO), who they claim were asking for a rental fee of £650 for every home game.
|From nobodies, to somebodies, to nowhere|
|Norton United were founded as a Saturday afternoon parks pitch side in 1989 when they joined the Staffordshire County Senior League.|
|Their home for the past 25 years has been the 1,500-capacity Norton Cricket Club & Miners Welfare Institute, at Community Drive, based in Smallthorne on the north side of Stoke-on-Trent.|
|The club currently play in the Northern Premier League First Division South, the eighth tier of English football, which is the highest level they have played at.|
|Norton reached the FA Cup first round proper for the first time earlier this season. They lost 4-0 at home to Conference side Gateshead but earned almost £50,000 in FA Cup prize money.|
In a statement, the club confirmed: "It is with great regret to announce that Norton United Football Club has made a difficult decision to resign from the Northern Premier League at the end of the 2014-15 season.
"The club will not be seeking a position in any lower league within the FA National Leagues Structure for any of its teams.
"The club were asked by the trustees of the welfare to pay a rent of £650 for each home game. This year we played 30 home games, and for next season that would equate to approximately £20,000. The club found this extortionate and unsustainable.
"The club was also told that negotiations were to be held to decide the fees for the second and third teams to play on the ground."
Andy Wain, chairman of non-league neighbours Leek Town, said: "It's devastating for local football. At the end of the day, we're all a non-league family, we all want to stick together and help each other out where we can.
"For a team to disappear after the run they've had, not only getting promoted but the FA Cup exploits, shows how in football you can be up one minute and then down again.
"You've got to have your own base to make a go of it. It's hard when you're groundsharing. They've obviously decided that they'd rather go out now, rather than fold halfway through next season."