Barnsley denied 'dream' St James’ Park clash as Sheffield FA refuse to move County Cup final

Instead of playing in a historic match at St James’ Park, Barnsley Women’s Football Club will face an early morning trek to Doncaster following a controversial stand-off with the Sheffield FA.

This Sunday, St James' Park will play host to a Women's National League Division One North fixture as Newcastle United Women compete at the venue for the very first time in their 33-year history. 

The Magpies were scheduled to face Barnsley, but will instead take on Alnwick Town after County Cup duties prevented the Reds from making the trip to the north-east.

The South Yorkshire outfit progressed to the cup final on March 30 following a 2-0 win over Sheffield FC. The Reds are now set to take on Huddersfield this Saturday at Doncaster Rovers' Eco-Power Stadium.

Since making the final, Barnsley have been in contact with the Sheffield FA to try and rearrange the cup fixture, considering players, staff and supporters had already booked travel and accommodation for what was supposed to be a memorable occasion in Newcastle.

However, the Sheffield FA have stood their ground and refused to change course, with the County Cup taking priority in the 'Order of Precedence'. This has consequently caused a flood of criticism from players and supporters on social media.

Barnsley Women coming out during the Women's FA Cup Fourth Round match

Barnsley Women's Football Club CEO Steve Maddock told Planet Sport: "Newcastle United were going to allow their women's team to play on St James' Park, and they were going to get about 10,000 people watching. It was going to be a great event for women's football and especially our two teams.

"We told our players, they were so excited as you can imagine. Chance of a lifetime playing in front of all those people at such an iconic stadium. All their family, friends and all our supporters booked hotels. Because it's a bank holiday weekend, we were going to stay up there and celebrate the weekend.

"Then we spoke to the County FA about reorganising our County Cup fixture. And before I did that, I spoke with Huddersfield Town, who are our opponents in the final.

"They [Huddersfield] agreed that if we could, they would agree to play after the 1st of May, midweek, or the following Sunday. I contacted the County FA, but they wouldn't move.

Aerial image of St James Park, Newcastle

"The County FA wouldn't budge. And without telling us, the FA swapped our [Newcastle] game for the following week - which means we miss out on the fixture at the stadium, and we're now playing Newcastle United at the University ground a week later."

It is understood that Sheffield FA had already paid for the use of Eco-Power Stadium - the venue for the County Cup final. While Barnsley did offer to cover the £2,000 expense in order to move the date, the governing body have stuck to the original plan.

Missing out on a historic trip to St James' Park was enough to force a strong reaction from many players and supporters. However, another contentious issue arose following Sheffield FA's announcement of a 10.30am kick-off time for the cup final.

Maddock added: "We've got girls coming from Loughborough, Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester. People travel to play for us. They're going to have to be on the road at least 7.30am to get there for 9am."

Eve Marshall, who plays as a defender for the club, said in a letter to the FA: "This has left our squad massively disappointed, with a sense that we have been let down and overlooked by the FA, and specifically the Sheffield FA."

She added: "There has still been no explanation as to why the Sheffield FA have done this. To compound matters, the Sheffield FA's refusal to help to find a solution has left our group with a genuine sense of resentment towards them."

Planet Sport have contacted Sheffield FA who said they are planning to release a statement on the matter.

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