Ground Grading Visit - Work to do to make grade

By WENDY GEE

Eastleigh got a bit of a jolt this week during an official ground-grading visit.

Unbeknown to them, they will be unable to take part in the end-of season play-offs unless they get another 150 seats installed at the Silverlake Stadium by the end of March.

Although the Blue Square South title may be beyond Eastleigh this season with Lewes currently running away at the top, the play-offs are a realistic target for Ian Baird's men.

The Spitfires, however, had been under the impression that if they achieved their goal of promotion to the Conference National (Blue Square Premier), they would have a season's grace to get seating up to the required 500.

"We will do the work, there's not a question about that, but we'd planned to do 150 extra seats," said director of football David Malone.

"Now it looks as if we'll have to do 150 first and do the rest later.

"It used to be the case that if you got up to the next level you had a year to do the work, but there have been so many hoo-haas and disputes that they've changed that now. If we don't get it done, we won't qualify to take part in the play-offs.

"It's sod's law that if we don't do the work, we'll finish in a play-off spot and if we do do the work, we won't!"

Although Eastleigh could go for the quick-fix solution of throwing up a temporary stand, the club are determined to do things properly - even if it costs them in the region of £30,000-£50,000.

"As we've spent so much money on the rest of the ground, the new seating has got to be in keeping with what's gone before," said Malone.

We will probably put up a new structure behind the goal at the motorway end of the ground."

With the FA clamping down even harder on ground grading, Malone said: "It's a nightmare at all levels of the pyramid, but it gets worse as you get higher because they are asking you for bigger and more expensive things.

"It's now going to cost us another £30,000-£50,000 to even qualify for the play-offs.

"When you think about it, there must be ten clubs thinking they might get promoted via the play-offs and all ten are going to have to spend big money, but only one will go up.

"You're asked to spend away on your ground with zilch guarantee that it will come to any useful purpose.

"Still," he shrugged, "if clubs are ambitious they might as well do the work because they ain't going to be going up without it."

Work, meanwhile, is due to start next week on Eastleigh's new state of the art floodlights. It is hoped it will be completed in time for next Saturday's FA Trophy tie at home to Bognor Regis Town (December 15).

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