Didcot Town bosses are urging residents to back the club as it is facing an uncertain future due to financial pressures. Reports the Oxford Mail.
The club on the Ladygrove estate has revealed that its operating costs have risen by 25 per cent over the past decade, with more money needed for general running costs. And it has warned that if it is unable to generate more income fast it may have to relocate and drop down one level from Evo-Stik League Southern Division One South and West to Hellenic League football – the 9th tier of English football.
Chairman John Bailey and vice-chairman Paul Chalk are appealing for the public’s backing – and business sponsorship – as it plans to build a new multi-use sports facility on land next to the Loop Meadow stadium to help generate additional revenue.
Chairman John Bailey said: “All I can ask is for the community to get behind us and support our venture and spread the word of the support we need to continue for another 110 years in the heart of Didcot.”
In 2011, a £400,000 scheme was launched to create Didcot’s first all-weather football pitch on Didcot Town FC land at Loop Meadow. The plan was supported by South Oxfordshire District Council and the town council but did not go ahead when talks fell apart and an alternative proposal for all-weather pitches at Hadden Hill was launched instead by the town council.
But the football club is still keen to develop its own plans next to the stadium and club bosses are now preparing to submit a planning application to SODC for all-weather pitches and flats in the coming months.
Mr Bailey said: “We have been fighting for over a decade to turn DTFC into a multi-use sports facility for the community of Didcot and beyond. This would provide the sustainability and financial security to operate the club for decades to come. Unfortunately we have previously had to rely on third parties to provide funding for the sports facility and this has resulted in delay after delay of this being realised. We are now at a point where time is running out, and as a result we have had to find a way to self fund this project. To do this we are working with a local developer to develop a small parcel of our land with flats to generate the income we need to build the all-weather pitch and other facilities needed to sustain the football club. The club’s vision will see multi-sports facilities that can be used by all ages and abilities and our plan is to offer free use to local schools and community organisations.”
Mr Bailey is now urging local businesses to get behind the club to try to support it in any way they can. He added: “The club also needs a main stadium sponsor, which will help to allow it to compete and operate next season.”
Treasurer Justin Lambourne said: “Unfortunately without improved financial stability the club just won’t survive in its current location or at the current level of football being played. In fact if we fail to realise the new plans there would have to be consideration to a move out of town and relocation of the club, in addition with potentially moving back into Hellenic League football.”
Town councillor Steve Connel said: “I was there when Didcot Town FC won the FA Vase in 2005. There are also new pitches being created at Boundary Park as part of the Great Western Park development and I would like to see more details of Didcot Town FC’s latest proposals.”
Didcot stated on their website. “We are currently close to submitting our plans to South Oxfordshire District Council which will see a number of apartments built on currently unused club land. The proceeds from the apartments will then enable the club to proceed with plans which began over a decade ago to develop our training pitch and surrounding land into all weather pitches. The club believes that the state of the art all weather facility will be a great community asset for the town for many years to come.
The current plans for the development of the flats were first drafted back in late 2015 and we have been working to ensure the design of these provides the club with a sustainable opportunity to fund the all weather pitches. The need for this is simple, our operating costs continue to rise faster than our income streams which can never be a sustainable operating model, this opportunity will ensure the sustainable future of Didcot Town FC in the town whilst providing a much needed service to both the sporting and local community. As with any business, our ability to utilise our assets is key and land is our major asset. Over the coming weeks we will continue to update our supporters and the local community as this scheme progresses. This is an exciting time for the club but still a very challenging one as we need to generate the required funds to sustain our facility in the interim, this scheme is key to the future of our club and would like to ask for all our supporters support in the plan and the need to raise funds for the pending season.
The club needs the support of the local community and local businesses for a sustained and successful future, so we are asking anyone to get in contact with the club if they can help us to achieve our goal of bringing facilites to the town that everyone will be proud of along with a football team playing at a good level of non league football.”