LETCOMBE have left the Uhlsport Hellenic League with immediate effect, saying they had “no alternative” but to withdraw.

The south Oxfordshire club’s decision comes just 15 days before the start of the Division 2 West season.

Letcombe, along with Headington Amateurs and Woodstock Town, were forced to drop into the seventh tier of non-league football for the 2018-19 campaign due to new Football Association rulings - one of which stated all grounds at step six must have floodlights.

The FA Leagues Committee notified clubs about the requirement for floodlights at the start of the 2015-16 season, initially setting a two-year deadline before extending it to include last year.

Club secretary Des Williams told the Oxford Mail in May that he feared they would lose players as a result.

Those concerns have now proved true as Letcombe have withdrawn from the Hellenic League, ending 25 years of playing at the level.

Informing the league of the club’s decision, Williams wrote: “This letter is sent with great regret to inform you that Letcombe FC are withdrawing from the Hellenic League with immediate effect.

“We were hoping that our players from last season would remain loyal, but none of them have yet signed as they are not willing to play at a lower level necessitated by our lack of floodlights, and most of them have already been signed by other local clubs.

“The FA have a lot to answer for, and I wonder how many other clubs throughout the country may be in the same situation as we are.

“I have repeatedly warned the FA that this could happen if they enforced the requirement to have lights at step 6, but nobody took any notice.

“I sent a letter to them two months ago expressing my concerns, but it was not even acknowledged, even though I requested an answer.

“The irony is that we have just been awarded a `Retain The Game` grant by the Football Foundation.”

Williams, who, along with brothers Russell and Dennis Stock, has helped to run Letcombe for 40 years, added: “We would like to thank all the league officials for providing us with 25 great years of football.

“I will always follow the results with great interest, but sometimes one has to take a step back before hopefully moving forward again, and that time has now arrived for Letcombe FC.

“We aim to `start again` with a young team in the North Berks League, and our hope is that one day we will be applying to join you all once again.

“I have been at Letcombe for 40 years, as has our vice chairman Russell Stock.

“His elder brother Dennis, our chairman, has been with the club for nearly half a century.

“This is a very sad day for everybody connected with the club, but we feel that we have no alternative.”