It is now almost three months since Horsham District Councillors rejected the latest in the long line of proposals to create a new home for Horsham Football Club.
Many of the reasons for the rejection, cited by the councillors, caused widespread bewilderment across the whole community, as well as a real sense of despondency amongst the club’s loyal supporters.
Here is an iconic local institution, that the people of Horsham have enjoyed for 134 years. It is run entirely by hard-working volunteers. The attitude of successive councils seems to have been to take the side of minority groups, some with relevant concerns that do need to be addressed, but others with an agenda that has little to do with the modest development proposed.
We fully respect that not everybody likes football. But many, many local residents have been to Hornets’ games during their lifetime and, even in this disappointing season at our temporary home, attendances have held up well. Probably a couple of thousand or more residents have been to one or more of our matches at Gorings Mead this season and many more will have followed our fortunes in the media.
Horsham is not blessed with great sporting facilities and, with council finances as they are, new ones are unlikely to be provided by the local authority in the foreseeable future.
So poor is the availability of suitable venues in Horsham that our first and youth teams have to travel as far as Crawley and beyond to train and many youngsters now go elsewhere in Sussex to find clubs that can provide better opportunities to develop their skills.
The rejected proposal would have delivered, not only a new ground for local residents to watch their football in comfort, but also two state-of-the-art 3G artificial pitches that would have been widely available for use by clubs, schools and individuals across the community. The benefits for youth in particular would have been enormous.
We have not asked Horsham District Council to invest local residents’ taxes in the club’s future, for we are able to finance the project ourselves. But we cannot achieve our goal without their support. In our proposals we have sought advice from the right people – their own planning officers.
Indeed those officers supported the application but their expert knowledge was roundly ignored by the councillors. You would laugh, if it was not to the detriment of our great club.
The mood of those involved with the club has not been good since the councillors made their decision and this has undoubtedly contributed to the decline that now sees us relegated from the Ryman League after 42 years’ membership.
But the recent appointment of Dominic Di Paola as manager has enthused us again and we look forward to renewing old acquaintances and making new friends in the surroundings of the Sussex County League next season. It is the catalyst for establishing a new era of success for Horsham Football Club. Success, that only seven and a half years ago brought international acclaim for our town when we played live on Sky Sports, twice.
The rejections that we have faced have been made by councils of the past. On May 7 a new council will be elected. We urge everyone who supports Horsham Football Club, who is interested in its well-being or wants to see new sporting facilities for the District to contact the candidates in their ward to urge them to work meaningfully and urgently with Horsham Football Club to come up with a workable solution.
Even if you do not normally vote, please do make an exception this year and use your vote for someone who will consider the community as a whole, and not just the minority. We can’t keep building houses on local land and not have any leisure facilities for the thousands moving to our town.
We need a council which acknowledge this and which will do what is right for Horsham FC now.
Chairman, Horsham Independent Supporters Club, York Close, Horsham