YOUNG footballers say they have been abandoned by a community club because they are not good enough to play in matches.

Royal Wootton Bassett Town's decision to fold its third teams at under-12 and under-14 level for the 2020/21 season has been slammed by parents, who believe the club is not sticking to its stated ethos of offering football for players of all abilities.

But the club strongly refutes the claim, pointing to its free Saturday morning training sessions for 4-13 year olds as an example of its inclusive approach.

It says the players who were members of the third team – the Whites – are welcome to join the first (Blue) or second (Yellow) teams next season.

Those affected by the move argue that, in reality, their chances of playing in fixtures on a Sunday have been greatly reduced.

Robert Gregory, 12, said: “My team-mates and I where left totally confused when our parents got told that the team was going to be shut down.

“We could merge with the other under-12 groups but our parents would have to pay over £300 a year in subscription fees and we might not get any match time in the next season.”

Another player, Liam Keith, had been with the club for three years.

He added: “It’s a big passion of mine. It’s like my outlet, it means a lot to me. I suffer with severe anxiety and playing football really helps my mental health.”

Liam's dad Adam Keith coached the under-12s before the club's decision prompted his resignation.

He said: “We’ve had a lot of emails and complaints from parents about the decision, they want to overturn it because they’re just so upset.

“We weren’t told anything about it, there was no debate or meeting – we were just sent an email. When I got it, it was so disappointing, the team has bonded phenomenally and now it’s just being taken away.

“One of the players has been there since he was six and it’s the only club he’s ever played for and he’s gutted.

“We’ve had some players in tears, my son has very bad anxiety. His release is football so it’s really important to him.”

The club acknowledged that the Whites team had been disbanded but stressed the players were welcome to join the remaining Bassett teams.

But when pressed by the Adver about players potentially not getting game time, club chairman Andy Walduck did not respond.

He issued a statement, which read: “The club has taken the decision to merge teams at two age groups. Our under-12 and 14 age groups have been impacted by this decision and will go from three to two teams for next season.

“As a club we review our available resources on a regular basis. And it was determined that, given the capacity available at our facilities, standing still in the current environment was not an option.

“All players who played for the under-12 Whites in the 2019/20 season will be more than welcome to join the Blue or Yellow teams going forward.

“They are also invited to continue to participate in the club’s award-winning, free community football scheme. We must also thank our under-14 teams for making the merger at their age group a successful one.”

Another claim made by players and coaches is that the club is moving away from its grassroots foundations to an elite system which will one day develop better players for its senior team.

Mr Keith added: “We’ve now been told that our focus is to give our time to those who will become footballers and that’s a small amount of people.

“Across the country it’s under one per cent of players who actually become professional footballers. In my opinion that’s the wrong thing to be focusing on.”

The club countered that while the pathway to adult football is key, those who may never represent Bassett at senior level are not being left behind.

Mr Walduck's statement continued: “With senior men’s and women’s teams competing in the Hellenic League, Wiltshire League and South West Regional Women’s Football League, we do wish to promote player and coaching development more within our youth section.

“This is in order to allow more players to progress through from youth to senior football – which is a long-standing aim of the club.

“However, as an FA Charter Standard Community Club – and the first to be recognised as such in Wiltshire – we are also committed to offering opportunities to play football to children of all ages, genders and abilities.

“To do so, we will continue to field up to two teams at each youth age group (up to under-16s) and offer our community football scheme.”