16:50 Friday 17 May 2013

Blues' two-year exile in North is finally over

Written byALAN SCOTT

THE Blues’ two-year exile in Blue Square Bet North is finally over - the Observer can exclusively reveal.

The Football Association broke the news to the Observer some 40 minutes before it was officially announced on the FA’s website.

A meeting was held at Wembley this afternoon when the FA decided to switch Bishop’s Stortford back into the Blue Square Bet South.

It comes after two financially crippling seasons for the East Herts club to places such as Workington in Cumbria, Colwyn Bay in North Wales and Blyth in Northumberland.

BSFC press spokesman Tim Lamb said: “This is obviously great news that we are back in the south and it’s fingers crossed for the Conference AGM that no [Conference] teams go pop.”

The FA spokesman told the Observer this afternoon (Friday May 17): “Stortford back in the South.”

It is thought that Gloucester City and Oxford City, despite being further south geographically than Stortford, wanted to stay in the North and this helped Stortford’s case.

Stortford will join Ebbsfleet, relegated from the Conference, plus newly-promoted teams such as Concord Rangers, Whitehawke and Gosport in a new-look Blue Square Bet South.

The news is sure to please Blues boss Rod Stringer as he will now have more money to spend on the playing budget, rather than losing money in hotel bills for overnight stays on a Friday before a Saturday match, as has happened several times over the last two years.

Blues were originally dumped in the North in the summer of 2011 in a decision which shocked the non-League football world.

This was mainly due to the collapse of Rushden & Diamonds.

Southport were given a reprieve and allowed to stay in the Conference, while Stortford were told they had to play in the Blue Square Bet North - despite being little more than 40 minutes from London.

Their plight was featured on BBC News.

Stortford were given a grant that first year by the Football Conference to help them with travel costs.

However, they have received no help this season.

They had expected to switch to the South last summer but this was not to be.

The club has found it difficult to cope with this harsh economic predicament in challenging times for non-League football clubs across the country.

It has had a massive impact on Stringer’s ability to bring in new players.

Many of his squad have complained of long midweek trips, getting back at 5am and having to take extra days’ holiday off work.

But now Stringer can plan for his first season in Blue Square Bet South as Stortford boss.

After success at Braintree, Blues fans must feel a wealth of new optimism that Stortford can fare well at this level.

Even last season Blues knocked eventual Blue Square Bet South champions Welling United out of the FA Cup and also beat another Blue Square Bet South side, AFC Hornchurch, in the FA Trophy.

The future certainly looks a lot rosier now the FA has seen sense and switched Stortford ‘back home’.

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