FROME Town Football Club has expressed its disappointment at the Football Association's decision to remove its team from the FA Trophy, having asked for the third round tie at Maidstone United to be postponed.

The Robins were due to play away to National League South side Maidstone last Wednesday night, but their Kent-based opponents' ground is now in a Tier 4 area.

The Somerset club said it would not request that its players travel across the country into an area which is now under the strictest Covid-19 restrictions.

Frome wanted the match postponed, but the FA adjudged that the tie had been forfeited, meaning that Maidstone progressed to the fourth round with a walkover.

This is because the FA Trophy has been deemed an 'elite' competition, meaning that the usual rules about not travelling into Tier 4 areas do not apply.

In an open letter to the FA ahead of the fixture, Frome chairman Derek Graham said: "With Maidstone in Tier 4 and classified as an 'elite' club, we are in the unenviable position of choosing whether to send our players into a Tier 4 area against the government advice and rules.

"As a non-elite team we do not have the resources of elite teams.

"The changing of the competition from non-elite to elite at this point seems incredibly unfair, especially at this later date, with just one day before the fixture.

"We want to know why our requests for this game to be held at a later date cannot be met due to the competition rules.

"As a club we are ready and able to field a side for this fixture, and we understand that the FA will be asking the DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] for the fixture to go ahead.

"However, with player safety in mind, we feel we are being 'forced' into a situation of withdrawing from a competition that we have done everything we can to partake in.

"As the chairman of this club, we are doing our upmost survive, after its near collapse back in April.

"Our fans raised £20,000 to help pay off the most pressing club debts.

"The rules of tiering currently have us in the only band in football where football can currently not be played (Steps 3-4), with the leagues at our level concerned about teams travelling within Tier 3 regions.

"We are doing everything we can to keep this club afloat with no income and no foreseeable league fixtures - our Trophy run has been keeping this club going."

Following the FA's consultation with DCMS, Frome were advised to travel to fulfil the fixture, but the club decided not to.

A further club statement said: "Following the decision by the FA and DCMS, the club has sought further advice and will not travel to the scheduled match versus Maidstone United.

"As a club our first thoughts have to be with the players, staff and officials of both teams who will be forced to play a match in Tier 4 against wider government regulations.

"As a 'non-elite' team, we do not accept the decision of both bodies given all the news coverage and medical expert advice provided.

"We will not put families and lives at stake.

"It’s clear that no football match outside of the top level is COVID safe.

"We will not demand that our players travel in separate cars across the country to a Tier 4 area.

"We have no clear clarification on the insurance procedures and coverage either.

"We’ve also been truly shocked by some of the wider fan comments who have a very reckless view on COVID and its effects, but more disappointed at the collective decision that has been made.

"We are not withdrawing from the competition, and believe the FA can still make a sensible decision to postpone until it is safe to play."

No postponement was made, and the FA duly removed Frome from the competition.

The FA's communication to the Somerset club said: "In accordance with the attached communication sent to all clubs on November 20 and FA Trophy Rule 11 of the Competition Rules, any postponed match in the third round proper must be played within the five-day postponement window (on or before December 24) and there will be no flexibility for a postponed match to be rescheduled beyond this date.

"It was confirmed that DCMS are content that all Buildbase FA Trophy third round fixtures can continue to be played, as scheduled, under the FA Trophy Protocol, which is in line with the latest DCMS guidance for elite sport.

"As your club has now confirmed to the FA that you will not be fulfilling the fixture, you are deemed to have forfeited the match and your opponents will progress to the next round."

Frome gave a brief response, which says: "For clarity to our supporters, we have not chosen to forfeit our match.

"We have been removed for asking for a postponement due to the now UK-wide safety concerns.

"We disagree with the FA's decision to remove us at this point and will continue to ask for further discussions."