Whyteleafe have announced that they have withdrawn from the Pitching In Isthmian League. They have released the following statement:
'It is with deep regret and sadness that we informed the Isthmian League earlier today that Whyteleafe FC will not be playing in next season’s Isthmian South Central League.
The club has been forced to give up its Step 4 status after new owners of the Church Road ground refused to negotiate a new lease or licence agreement with the club for the 2021-22 season.
Home to the Leafe for more than 60 years, Church Road was purchased by Irama last year at auction after the previous owners went into administration.
Despite numerous attempts by the Trustees, current management committee and an independent fan led group to discuss a way forward, Singapore based property development company Irama – the new landlords - activated a break clause to terminate the club’s lease on July 31st this year.
This was despite the club paying Irama nearly £50,000 of back rent that the new owners had been told by the administrators was due for the administration period. Whyteleafe didn’t believe this was the case as the club had been paying all the landlords’ costs during that period to keep the ground viable and to protect the value of the facility.
But Whyteleafe FC believed Irama were acting in good faith and also wanted to have an ongoing working relationship with the new owners and despite the lack of income during the Covid-19 lockdowns paid the back rent.
Our withdrawal from the Isthmian League is a devastating blow to everybody involved at the club, the fans, players local community and the wider football family. We would like to thank all of you.'
Following this announcement, Irama have commented on social media:
'We are shocked to hear the news of Whyteleafe withdrawing from the league. After initially handing in their lease months ago, we have since been in dialogue to find a solution and have them continuing to play at Church Road. We hope to still reach a mutual agreement.'
Abingdon Town, who play in the UHLSPORT Hellenic League Div One East, have today also given up their Step Six status and released a statement which mirrors that of Whyteleafe. Their ground was also recently acquired by Irama.
At tonight's AGM, League Chairman Nick Robinson confirmed that Whyteleafe's place in the Pitching In Isthmian League for next season has been held open- in the hope that a suitable ground can be found which will allow them to continue. This decision was supported by all of our clubs. If they cannot continue, then we will run one club short, and the vacancy will be filled at the end of the season.