A CALL for action has been made by Bicester Town Football Club after it was forced to turned down promotion for a third time.

The club has struggled for years to progress through the leagues without its own sports ground in the town.

BTFC currently shares its ground with Ardley United, and has done for three years, but a clause in their agreement means only one of the teams can progress up the divisions because of the extra games promotion entails.

Club Vice-chairman Alf Pickett said: "We are in limbo, it cannot go on. It is unsustainable."

He added: "I have had to guarantee sponsors that we will keep going and if we don’t they’ll get their money back because they’re local businesses. These are people that have been in the town for years and want to know what’s going on.

"It affects everyone; the players, the managers, the committee, the sponsors, everyone."

BTFC finished as runners-up in this season's Division 1 East of the Uhlsport Hellenic League.

Previously they were were based at Oxford Road Sports Ground, but the club was forced to move following a disagreement with owners Bicester Sports Association.

The latest blow has left the team frustrated and Mr Pickett said the main problem is an outlet for local players, with no team based in the town.

He said: "Bicester is supposed to be a healthy town.

"Once the young adults get to age 17 there is nowhere for them to go, it’s a crazy situation for a town this size.

"For example, in comparison you have nearby Brackley Town FC which is an area with a smaller population than Bicester, yet they are playing at Wembley next week for the FA Trophy."

He added: "Bicester is the fastest growing town in Europe supposedly and is meant to be a healthy town yet it doesn’t have a senior football team that can progress the younger players.

"These players will end up having to go elsewhere which often happens."

The club have called for years to be allowed back to their former home at Oxford Road Sports Ground in Bicester, but plans are in place for Bicester Sports Association to sell the land for a shopping development St Edburg's Walk.

The Association has long said it is a grassroots organisation which does not have the funds to keep and make improvements to both the ground in Bicester and another sports ground 'hub' just outside the town in Chesterton.

Local resident Callum Vinall set up a petition, 'Save the Oxford Road Sports Ground', when the plans first came out almost two years ago. It has now attracted about 2,000 signatures.

He said: "Oxford Road is an ideal ground for a successful and growing football club that is being held back by the lack of suitable sports pitches in Bicester.

"Cannibalising its best pitches by selling them off to developers is a terrible way to manage our community assets. Selling the pitches is simple vandalism. Oxford Road is a place where sports people can access, supporters can walk, get a bus or drive to the ground.

"There is a lot of great history there that Bicester people do not want to be thrown away."

The BSA, alongside developers U+I and Adalta Real, hopes to move all the sporting facilities from Oxford Road Sports Ground to expand the existing site in Chesterton.

A spokesman for the partnership said: "We are aware that there are a mixture of views locally. We welcome local feedback and are looking forward to undertaking a full public consultation with all members of the Bicester community, which will provide a balanced view of local opinion.

"We’re excited about the proposals and believe that Bicester residents will recognise the significant benefits that it will deliver. The new sports hub will provide expanded and enhanced facilities for BSA’s user clubs, whilst protecting long-term sports provision in Bicester, and St. Edburg’s Walk will deliver new shops, restaurants and community spaces.

"BSA has continued to support local grassroots football, as Bicester United and Bicester Town Colts use BSA facilities and currently have over 200 members. We are pleased to congratulate Bicester United on their recent elevation to Senior status."

Bicester Town Football Club continues to look for new grounds to call home and is currently enquiring into whether the new Whitelands Farm Sports Ground would be financially possible.