Todmorden Golf Club’s scratch team has been stripped of its Halifax-Huddersfield Union Division Three title.
A statement on the Union website said the decision had been taken “due to irregularities” over Todmorden’s opening match of the season at home to Elland on Friday, May 23.
The title will not be awarded this season and third-placed Outlane are promoted with runners-up Hebden Bridge. Elland, who were relegated, will not be allowed to come back up next year.
Todmorden are frustrated and angry about the decision, team member Dave Stafford saying his club had been open and honest about the events at Rive Rocks when Elland had visited on a wet evening.
He said that the Union hadn’t explained its decision, which came after it had called off a planned meeting between the parties.
Stafford also accused the Union of a witch hunt against Frank Greaves, Tod’s non-playing captain against Elland, who had made clear his disappointment about being overlooked as Union team boss at the start of the season.
However, Union secretary John Lawrence is adamant that the sides arranged the result, adding that the rules clearly stated that matches had to be completed.
Greaves said it had been “a grim night” at Tod for the match and although the four home players thought the course was playable for the head-to-head contests, Elland were reluctant.
“They didn’t want to play and offered us a half,” said Stafford.
He said Elland’s opening player Ryan Greenwood had hit his opening drive out of bounds and offered to shake hands with opponent Mark Birkett.
Birkett had enquired if his opponent was giving him the hole and Greenwood had said he was conceding the match.
Stafford said Elland’s second player Reece Wilby had made the same offer to him after playing his opening shot.
“We assumed Elland would do the same for Chris Thornsby and Michael Murray’s matches but instead the players agreed to halve their contests,” said Stafford.
Stafford says he rung Greaves, who was on his way to the course, and was told players weren’t allowed to agree to a half without a ball being hit.
“We rung Elland to ask them to come back and play the other two matches or re-arrange the fixture but they said ‘that’s it - 6-2’.”
Tod then tried to contact league secretary Bryan Webb, the Union’s president elect, but only got his voice mail.
“He came back to us the following Monday or Tuesday and we asked him what we should to do because we didn’t want to put the score in. He said it would be okay - 6-2,” said Stafford.
Ten weeks later, having beaten Longley Park 8-0 in their last match to finish top, a letter from the Union arrived at the Todmorden club by recorded delivery saying they had been stripped of the title for match fixing.
Stafford has tried to get the Royal and Ancient to intervene but says that an offer by the local Union to supply the govering body with information had been withdrawn when Todmorden had requested a copy.
Tod claim a meeting was arranged between the parties but they had received a phone call the day before to say it was off, the decision stood and the matter was closed.
“They’ve ridden roughshod over us,” said Stafford.
“There seems to be nowhere to go. We feel it has been a witchhunt for Frank. It stinks - everyone I’ve spoken to can’t understand it.”
However, Lawrence said the executive had written evidence from Elland captain Nigel King and secretary Paul Green. “Elland consider the verdict very fair and have accepted the decision and apologised,” he said.