By Sam Elliott
WORTHING were thrown into turmoil days before the start of the Bostik League season after being told their new 3G pitch isn’t fit for purpose.
The Rebels’ surface – funded by owner George Dowell, 24, with compensation he earned from a car crash suffered as a teenager – must now discover a way forward following news the £400,000 plastic has become unplayable.
Flooding over the past two years has, the club said, resulted in the pitch becoming uneven.
It has failed three separate FIFA tests and Worthing cannot play on it until the surface is relayed.
Worthing must now play their first five fixtures away from Woodside Road. The club cannot rip up the pitch and start again during the season, and are hoping to a solution can be found to avert a crisis.
If they can’t find a way around the problem, an agreement has been reached with National League South Bognor Regis to play home games at Nyewood Lane.
Worthing managing director Calvin Buckland said: “While we really feel for the fans, players and sponsors, the person I feel for most is George. He has turned the club around.
“He has put in more than £800,000 in his two years here, firstly paying off the debt, then installing the pitch, continually increasing the playing budget, investing in other facilities and so on.”
“I know how grateful people are for what George has achieved. We need the fans and we need their support and understanding more than ever.
“We will be back. Everything that George stated at the start of his ownership holds true – although this whole episode could put our five-year plan back a year if we are unable to be reimbursed for the costs incurred and the lost revenue during our time away.
“Hopefully in a few years time, we will look back at this as just a blip as we continue to move forward.”
Chairman Dowell said: “Expectations don’t change for this season as fas as the team’s concerned, we understand it will have more of an impact on fans and sponsors. On the pitch, our aim is to still finish as high as we can.
“We’ve put a lot of time and effort in and know how much the club means to a lot of people. We just ask everyone to stick with us and we’ll come back stronger for it.”
Manager Gary Elphick says he and the club’s players are fully focused despite facing five away games minimum.
They kicked off against Met Police on Saturday and then go to Leatherhead, Lowestoft, Thurrock and Burgess Hill.
Elphick said: “Having to play our first give games away from home is now what we wanted but we’ve just got to get on with things.”