KEEPING Winsford United out of next season’s FA Cup would be a bitter blow, the club’s chairman insists.

The team is still none the wiser about when the 2020-21 campaign will be allowed to kick off, but a delay beyond the summer months could see United miss their chance to take part in the iconic tournament.

Recent reports in the national press suggest non-league teams at Winsford United’s level could be excluded from the next year’s tournament if the earliest round that can be played is in October, when the fourth qualifying round is played.

Ray Duckworth, chairman of Winsford United, is now waiting for some indication from the FA on when next season might start and what safety measures will be in place – but hopes his team will be able to take part in the famous tournament.

He told the Guardian: “It is supposed to be the people’s cup – but are they saying 'let’s kick the people out'?

“We might not be kicking off the season until September, October, November – we don’t know – but we play our FA Cup games in July and August.

“It’s not just the money, it is the prestige of playing in the FA Cup. It’s what the players look forward to.

“But it is good money. You have only got to get two or three games in and you start looking at £3,000 or £4,000 – that gets you over the initial start of the season.”

Winsford United were sat in 13th place in the North West Counties Premier League when the season was abandoned in March, having played 29 of 38 games.

The club was already looking to make improvements at Barton Stadium before it was hit last month by a fire, which caused minor damage to the clubhouse, and United are now waiting to hear back from insurers to see if any money can be claimed.

Ray said: “We already had plans to do stuff – new dugouts, goalposts, some pre-season work on the pitch.

“We have done other work on drainage to lower the sides down – it had seemed on our pitch the water would drain in.

“We are looking to do a five-a-side pitch too but everything seems to have come to a halt. We don’t know if the insurers are going to pay us out, and if not we will have to find the money.”

United are two years into a three-year plan, with other ambitions including a new under-21s team and the possibility of launching junior sides as part of a new academy.

Ray added: “Those things are still in the pipeline, so there is a lot going on behind the scenes.”