MARK ASHWELL has paid thanks to his friends at Bracknell Town for allowing Wokingham and Emmbrook to groundshare at Larges Lane next season.
The Sumas had been provisionally granted a spot in next season’s Hellenic Division One East, but a stricter stance on laws from the FA means they have to play at a different ground until Lowther Road is deemed suitable.
It had initially been feared that Dan Bateman’s men may have to take voluntary relegation into step seven, similar to Finchampstead last year.
But they have now managed to negotiate to make Bracknell their temporary home, as they also previously did in 2010, ahead of a planned return to Lowther Road in 2019.
And Ashwell, who has been officially reappointed as the Sumas president, says he is grateful to the support from their neighbours.
“I can’t thank Bracknell enough really,” Ashwell told The Wokingham Paper.
“They’re old friends.
“Bob Good, our secretary, and myself know Bracknell really well from over the years.
“As soon as we established that they weren’t running a reserve side, I think if they’re going to be renting the pitch to anybody, we thank them very much that it would’ve been us.
“So they agreed and fair play to them because it’s a fraternity, a friend and they agreed quickly and we got a win-win scenario on agreeing the amount of money we’re paying for it.
“So thanks to our friends, they sorted us out and it was a fairly short conversation really.”
Sumas are no strangers to this situation.
Since the mid-1990s, Wokingham have shared grounds with Windsor and Eton, Egham, Flackwell Heath and Henley as well as Bracknell before finally receiving planning permission to develop Lowther Road in 2016 and return to the borough.
In order to compete at step five or six, a 100-seater stand and floodlights must be installed, as well as specific other requirements and while they are allowed to complete the works, they have only just received enough funds to commence building.
“The FA have been doing this to our step and above for about 10 years,” explained Ashwell.
“At every stage in those 10 years, they’ve always deferred it at the last moment. Whilst the writing has been on the wall, we just figured that they would see sense and defer it which they didn’t this time.
“I had contacted our league and the FA and tried to get dispensation to have one more year because we’ve raised the funds we need (£30,000) to unlock the Football Association grant (£130,000).
“We’d raised the £30,000 and we’d obviously got the planning permission and it was just the timing was wrong by a season.
“So I tried to swing it that we could stay at Lowther but they were adamant that they’d drawn a line under that.
“Other teams like Finchampstead had to react to it and make decisions so I understand that. So to get the groundshare situation sorted was brilliant.”
He added: “We were tempted to drop down (to step seven).
“If people hadn’t been so pro-active then we were tempted to do that and take our chances of getting back again, only because your head has to rule your heart really.
“We know how much money you lose in effect by doing groundsharing but at least this time we’ve got an end game.
“One year groundshare, win the league and then walk out at Lowther Road under floodlights in step five and in the FA Vase. That would be good wouldn’t it?
“It’s a real tough division but it’s good fun.
“I think we’ll get more people come and watch us at Bracknell. We can play under floodlights in midweek as well if needs be.
“It could be a really good, fun season where we could actually achieve.”