Harborough Town of the United Counties League have secured £800,000 of funding to transform the ground and further establish its community credentials in a move described as a “game changer” for the club.
The money will be used to:
• Create a state-of-the art, all-weather third generation stadia quality pitch.
• Increase the capacity at Harborough Town Community Football Stadium from a three-sided to four-sided ground, which will increase the ground capacity.
• Double the car parking at the club.
It marks the successful culmination of a four-year campaign to secure the funding, with the club also obtaining a new 50-year lease from Harborough District Council to stay at the ground replacing three shorter leases, including one set to expire within 12 months. The funding is made up of £436,123 from the Premier League & FA Facilities Fund delivered by the Football Foundation, £58,427 from Premier League through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund and £270,000 secured by Harborough District Council from section 106 agreements where the authority obtained funds from developers for community use. The club is also investing £45,000 of its own funds.
Harborough Town is an FA Charter Standard Community Club playing in the Chromasport United Counties Football League and has more than 800 players aged from six to 70 representing 48 teams, set to increase to 60 in four years. The club is also home to The Royalists FC, The Cherry Tree FC, Harborough Churches, Brooke House Football Academy and Soccer Sixes.
Founded in 2000, the Football Foundation is the largest sports charity in the UK funded by the Premier League, The FA and Government, via Sport England. It develops new and refurbished grassroots sports facilities in order to improve the quality and experience of playing sport at the grassroots level.
Funded with £6.5m each year from the Premier League, the FSIF – the sister organisation of the Football Foundation – is the country’s largest provider of grants towards projects that help improve the comfort and safety of lower league football grounds in both the professional and amateur game.
Laurence Jones, Chairman of Harborough Town’s trustees, said the funding and agreement of a new lease has secured the long-term future of the club.
He said: “It’s a game-changer for Harborough Town as we will be able to deliver an exceptionally high-quality football facility, which will be one of the finest in the country and will benefit the local football community by giving players a high-quality football experience working with qualified coaches. It will be a fantastic place to watch football and we hope the local community will really get behind the club at this exciting time in its history.
“The Trustees and everyone connected with the club would like to place on record our huge thanks and appreciation to the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, Harborough District Council and Leicestershire & Rutland County FA who have come together and worked with the club over the last four years to turn our vision of creating a football hub that will benefit the community of Market Harborough into reality.”
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “It is fantastic news for Harborough Town FC to have been awarded a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund to develop their ground.
“Since 2000, the Foundation has awarded 244 grants worth £15.5m across Leicestershire towards grassroots sports projects worth over £27.9m. This latest project, in Harborough, will have a great impact on the local community by opening up access to our national game and improving the quality of sporting experience they enjoy at the enhanced facilities.
“It has been made possible by investment from the Premier League, The FA and Government, via Sport England.”
Councillor Janette Ackerley, Harborough District Council’s portfolio holder for Wellbeing and Localities, said: “It is a really exciting time for this football club and we’re delighted we’ve been able offer support, as well as help them secure further funding. This will help the club develop sporting talent locally and fits perfectly with our drive to get more people active.
“It also aligns well to the Council’s new strategy for physical activity particularly focusing on increasing participation, Building Partnerships and better utilising our sport and leisure infrastructure.”
Kelly Ellis, Head of Football Operations at Leicestershire & Rutland County FA, said: “The new stadia 3G Football Turf Pitch will be a fantastic addition to Harborough Town FC’S facilities. The FA Charter Standard Community Club have worked tirelessly over the past four years, working with multiple partners to fundraise and develop their Football & Business Development Plans. The new facility will aid not only existing but future teams, as well as being an asset for the wider football community in Harborough.”
The programme of work has not yet been finalised but is expected to start in April with a target completion date of the first week of August in time for the start of the 2018/19 season. The stadia quality 3G pitch, which will be a FIFA quality surface containing shock absorbers, will enable more games for all age groups to be played on the club’s main pitch to meet the planned growth in the number of teams over the next few years.
The car park will be extended around the right side of the club house, while the only side of the ground still solely grass will have a concrete strip to allow standing, turning the venue into a four-sided stadium. There will also be new dug outs and new perimeter fencing around the pitch and the ground.