The last few years have been fairly glamorous for Westfields FC. From their regular title tilts in the Midlands Football League Premier Division, to their historic FA Cup run in 2016 that featured an appearance on BBC’s Football Focus, things have been going from strength to strength for the club nicknamed The Fields.
But it’s not always been plain sailing. Fifteen years ago, the club were facing the very real prospect of extinction.
Instructed by the landlords of Rotherwas Industrial Estate, Thorn Lighting, that it was to be sold for an industrial development, Westfields FC were facing an immediate threat to their future. After negotiating a 12-month stay of execution, they then sought funding avenues to help them frantically find a new home for the club formed just four months after England’s famous World Cup triumph in 1966.
After various appeals across various newspaper and broadcast titles, they eventually found their home.
The club located a surplus piece of land owned by Hereford Sixth Form College and situated two miles away from their grounds. Westfields were given permission to develop it, securing a 30-year lease by the College, but they were to receive no funding support towards it.
After constructive discussions with the Premier League, The FA and Government’s Football Foundation, they found their resolution. As the UK’s largest sports charity, the Football Foundation provides grants to help support the growth of the beautiful game in England. Using the money to encourage partnership funding from local authorities, the Foundation helped to support £250,000 worth of investment into the club’s new facility.
The funding helped to provide Westfields FC with a purpose-built changing facility, a significantly enhanced first-team grass pitch, as well as a floodlit training area and second pitch for the club’s junior sides. Their new home was ready for the following season.
But amidst this backdrop of uncertainty, it appeared to stir Westfields FC into action on the pitch. Making use of the last season at their home of 25 years, The Fields completed a league and cup double that season. They became champions of the West Midlands Regional League Premier Division for the first time, earning them a historic promotion, and then rivals Kington Town to win the Herefordshire County Senior Challenge Cup.
Since then, the club has continued to go from strength to strength. With an additional £20,000 of funding from the Premier League’s Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF), Westfields FC were able to deliver a new covered spectator stand, able to accommodate over 220 people, as well as hard-standing area fir for a further 200 spectators.
These facilities received particular notoriety when they were featured on BBC’s Football Focus following Westfields FC’s historic run to the first-round of the FA Cup proper – the first time in their history that they’ve managed this feat. Football Foundation Ambassador, Dan Walker, was on hand to speak to club representatives about the club’s run, which saw them beat eight sides on the way to having their first-round cup-tie broadcast live to the nation.
Perhaps even more significant, however, is the difference made to the youth section of the club. The Fields now boast more than 10 junior teams, including a number of new opportunities for girls, with their Under-14 side reaching their first ever cup final, to be played on 4 May at Hereford United’s Edgar Street, and plans underway to create a new Under-12 girls’ team next season.
Andrew Morris, Chief Executive of Westfields FC, said: “It’s no exaggeration to say the Premier League, The FA and Government’s Football Foundation saved Westfields Football Club. Alongside Westfields’ committee, sponsors allpay Ltd and the Hereford Sixth Form College, they’ve provided with a facility to be incredibly proud of and that has made a monumental difference to our club.
“Obviously helping to re-house us was the main benefit but the impact this has had on providing youngsters with opportunities to play football is really remarkable and has helped us double the size of the club from when we were homeless in 2004.
“The facilities have also enabled other partners to utilise them for sport, with pupils from the Hereford Sixth Form College using it each Wednesday for girls’ and boys’ football and Herefordshire County FA hosting cup finals at allpay.park. We honestly can’t speak highly enough of what a difference the support from the Foundation and their Funding Partners has done for us and 15 years on, we’re delighted to see where it has taken us.”