CHARD Town Football Club has been 'kicked out' of the Toolstation Western League after 43 years by the Football Association, because their sloping ground no longer meets the requirements to play at Step 6 of the National pyramid.

The Robins have been relegated for the coming 2019/20 season, despite finishing seventh of the 20 teams in Division 1 last campaign, to Step 7, with no chance of promotion at their current Zembard Lane ground.

This will probably mean the Premier Division of the Somerset County League, where neighbours Ilminster Town play.

Chard will no longer be regarded as a Premier club in Somerset, so will not be able to enter the Somerset Premier Cup and will now be placed in the Somerset Senior Cup, a competition their reserves played in last season.

The Robins joined the Western League in 1976 and in the late 1990s they enjoyed a spell in the Premier Division.

However, a FA remit five years ago 'moved the goalposts' and saw them barred from entering the FA Cup and Vase because of the gradient on the pitch.

For several seasons the Robins have been given a Western League reprieve, but although plans for a new ground are beginning to take shape, planning permission has not yet been obtained and in a major FA shake-up of Non-League football, the club has paid the penalty.

In all other aspects Chard, with a totally enclosed ground, meets all grading requirements and is one of the best supported and managed clubs at that level of the game.

It means that Chard, with up-to-date floodlights, will next season be playing 30 league games in a 38-week season, compared to 42 the season before last.

Sport in Chard is different to surrounding towns in South Somerset, in that football, cricket and tennis are played at Dening Sports Fields at no cost to the Chard ratepayers, as the clubs maintain their own grounds/courts.

Chard, in fact, owns a considerable share of the Zembard Lane ground, which is in an area allocated for housing development.

What of the future? Hardworking chairman Lyndsay Gage and his board of directors have many decisions to make.

Will the current management team of Jamie Manley and Kevin Leigh wish to stay at a lower level of football?

Will the existing squad of players be prepared to play at Step 7, with neighbours Wellington, Sherborne, Bishops Lydeard and Axminster offering a higher grade of football?

Will the members of the committee, fans and sponsors still want to support the side at a lower level?

Chard, who have never finished in the bottom two of the Western League (Division 1), are now at a crossroads in their history, which in 2021 is their 100th anniversary.

Will they go the same way as Minehead and Glastonbury, once stalwarts of the Western League, now languishing in the lower levels of the Somerset County leagues, or with a new ground will they rise from the ashes?

If they do rise, it could realistically be five years before that dream becomes fact.

Former Chard chairman and secretary Brian Beer, now president of the Western League, said: "I am devastated and disappointed that it has come to this and I will make a further statement in due course, when appropriate."