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Christmas Games in Doubt
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY'S festive clashes with Mansfield have been thrown into doubt due to uncertainty about where their home matches are to be played. The Stags have been locked out of their Field Mill ground due to a rent dispute, and had to play their FA Trophy match on Saturday at the former home of Ilkeston Town.
The Football Conference have issued a statement which effectively forces the Stags to resolve the issue in the next week, before Town are due to play them on Boxing Day. The statement reads:
Mansfield Town FC has been instructed by the Board of the Football Conference, that while they are sympathetic to recent events, nevertheless the integrity of the competition must remain paramount in the interest of all member clubs.
As a consequence of information received from the club and its solicitor, the club is required no later than 5pm on Monday 20 December to notify the Conference, of where it will meet the obligation under rule, to fulfil its scheduled Boxing Day home fixture [against Grimsby] and all home fixtures thereafter.
The rules of the competition are quite clear. If the ground upon which they were admitted to membership is no longer available to stage their home fixtures, then Mansfield Town can only fulfil future fixtures at a ground on which they intend to play such fixtures, which is certified as having an "A" grade qualification. Failure to meet this requirement will not only impinge on issues which relate to competition rules on membership criteria, but other associated matters including, though not limited to, promotion regulations to the Football League.
Mansfield have said in the press that they are hopeful of returning to Field Mill in time for the Boxing Day clash with Grimsby, but the Conference statement forces them to resolve it one way or another in the next few days.
Ilkeston's New Manor Ground is a fallback for the Stags and is no longer used due to Ilkeston Town being wound up in September. It is believed that this ground is grade "A" rated, or was when it was used by Ilkeston in the Conference North just two months ago, but this has not been confirmed.
The worst case scenario is that Mansfield are expelled from the league and that Grimsby could have no fixture on Boxing Day and New Year's Day, both dates they are due to play the Stags this season.
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