It was lovely to meet everyone and see the action at Newbury Football Club today. The annual Fun Day and Penalty Shoot out at the ground in Faraday Road drew a huge crowd. Lovely sunshine, good turnout and an impressive amount of activity on the pitch – what’s not to like?
At the moment though the club is in limbo. West Berkshire Council (Conservative)’s plans for the development of the London Road Industrial Estate are still uncertain and little practical is expected to happen for 3 – 5 years. This week the Council offered Newbury Football Club a one-year extension on their lease. While that’s to be welcomed, NFC Chair Lee McDougall has proposed a longer extension with a break clause in it, to come into effect only when action actually takes place on development at the London Road Industrial Estate. The club would agree to move when that day comes. This is a very professional approach to the issues at hand, but no answer is yet forthcoming from our lovely Council.
When my own son was growing up, we were fortunate enough to live in the catchment of Brentford FC. Brentford runs a fantastic Football in the Community scheme and their Council in Hounslow and neighbouring Richmond and Twickenham, then LD, used to bend over backwards to help them do their work. They recognised the importance that lively community football could bring to the health and spirit of our children.
In Newbury, we are really lucky to have an efficient, active team at NFC. If only our Council could see the importance of this. By the time I left the Fun Day, Richard Benyon had dropped in [a little surprising given his formal position that this is a “local matter” in which it would be inappropriate for him to get involved (!)], but no one from the Council had visited to see the club in action.
On the club’s website Lee McDougall says: “We passionately believe football, like all sport, inspires young people and provides a focus for personal and physical development from early years into adulthood. We’ve seen first-hand how sport can turn lives around. Newbury does not have enough community football facilities, the only all-weather outdoor, floodlit , artificial turf training venues are in a few large secondary schools and in high demand from commercial organisations. Also, the town is lacking quality grass pitches to meet the sporting demands of local children. If you value local youth sport, please help us by watching the video, signing the petition and sharing them with your friends and family …” Read more here.
Once again, children are bearing the brunt of this Council’s lack of engagement and indecision. I understand there is the potential for outside funding to pay for 3G Astroturf to create a pitch that could allow a couple of hundred additional boys and girls to play each week, on top of the 360 that train with the club already, but with no certainty of tenure and no alternative location being suggested, the club can’t pursue such possibilities. And NFC do pay rent for this pitch, by the way, and they pay themselves for the upkeep of the ground.
Back to the positive in of all this, though. Seeing so many Newbury youngsters fit, healthy and engaged with their sport, today, made for an uplifting morning. Keep up the good work Newbury Football Club and Newbury Community Football Group. Our kids need you!