Rich Bessey has been left devastated by the news his Liss Athletic team cannot be promoted from the Hampshire Premier League.
The boss found out over Christmas the club are not allowed to erect a perimeter fence around their Norman Collard Sports Ground.
The Wessex League grading requirements insist on such a fence being in place, leaving Liss stranded at their present level.
‘It is a massive body blow and I am gutted,’ said Bessey.
‘I have to admit to feeling pretty demoralised by the news.
‘Apparently there is a covenant on the ground that won’t allow a fence to be put up.
‘When I came here I sold the dream of promotion to players and sponsors who have been fantastic.
‘A lot of the players brought in have Wessex League experience and they bought into it.
‘Now it looks like it will all be for nothing.
‘I called a meeting of the players and told them it would be okay if any of them wanted to leave and play at a higher level.
‘They all came back, though, and said they wanted to stay and finish what they started.
‘We have the necessary floodlights and some of the best changing rooms around.
‘But for the sake of a perimeter fence we cannot progress.
‘As I see it, I don’t think that either myself or the players will be at Liss next season.
‘It just makes a mockery of everything.’
Bessey is investigating the potential of a groundshare with Petersfield Town for next season.
But even that would not be enough for promotion.
It is believed the groundshare has to be already be in place before promotion can be taken.
The news is a massive frustration for the 30-year-old boss, who has started to turn things around at the club.
Struggling Liss have finished in the bottom two of the senior division for four of the past five seasons.
But Bessey has guided them up to second in the table.
He has turned them from whipping boys to realistic title challengers.
Now it looks like all their hard work will be in vain.
‘There is no point being in football if you are not allowed to progress,’ said Bessey.
‘We wanted to bring Wessex League football back to Liss and also enter the FA Cup next season.
‘If we win the league we deserve to go up.
‘At the moment we are two points off the top with two games in hand.
‘All we can do is push on and try to win the league.’