Grand plans to build a new stadium and sports village could come too late to save cash-strapped Melton Mowbray FC, according to its chairman.
The club have been chosen as co-hosts of the proposed new stadium – alongside Melton RFC - which has been earmarked for land on the former King Edward VII School site.
Melton Council, who are spearheading the ambitious project, have offered to set up Melton in a temporary ground at the Burton Road site this season.
They are also believed to have sought assurances from the Football Association (FA) – one of the project’s primary donors – over Melton’s potential promotion to the East Midlands Counties League.
But Melton FC chairman Sam Ellis fears they are running out of time to meet the league’s rigorous ground requirements by the March 31 deadline.
Basic requirements include covered seating for at least 50 spectators, hard-standing areas, turnstiles and barriers around the perimeter of the ground.
He said: “It’s a fantastic project to take on, and as a club we are very grateful to be invited into it.
“The council have backed us up completely, but just need to be aware that if it’s not in place by the end of March and we get refused promotion, then the club may not survive again.
“We have only three months to sort this out otherwise the team could finish. And if it finishes it will take another seven years to get another team back here.”
The club agreed a temporary move to Asfordby Amateurs last season while plans for a ground in Melton were finalised, but it has left them with falling crowds and no bar revenue.
The club held crisis talks in October where a stay of execution was agreed until the end of the season.
But Mr Ellis warned he and co-managers Cliff Thornton and Matt Curtis would step down if a move back into Melton wasn’t secured and promotion was denied over ground issues.
He said: “I built this club up from nothing and I don’t want it to go, but if we get turned down for promotion again, Cliff (Thornton) and Matt will walk away and I will go with them.
“I can’t afford to fund the club for another season, and I’m prepared to take a step back for the love of the club.”
The borough has just three surviving clubs playing Saturday league football - Melton, Holwell Sports and Asfordby Amateurs.
In recent seasons Welby Lane United, Melton Building Society, Asfordby Village and Long Clawson have all folded, while Melton and Asfordby have lost their reserve sides.
Ellis added: “Facilities for football in this town are dreadful. The sport hasn’t been looked after all the time I’ve been here.
“There are two teams playing Sunday league football at Crossfields, but there are no shower facilities.
“I would love in five years for the club to be in the FA Cup, the FA Trophy and the East Midlands Counties League with 500 or 600 people watching us. I think that’s very possible.
“But if we don’t do something Melton will lose its only team.”