Horsham FC - cost to community

I FEEL I must endorse and perhaps expand upon the concerns expressed by Paul Williams in his letter to the County Times (May 19) regarding the ongoing saga of a new ground for Horsham Football Club (HFC).

I seem to recall that HFC got into financial difficulties in the early 1980s, and at a meeting called to discuss the issue it was mooted that the Queen Street ground might be sold in order to fund a move to a more suitable site.

An article in the County Times recorded a member pointing out that the ground had been bequeathed to the people of Horsham for the purpose of recreational sport, and furthermore if it ceased to be used for this purpose, title reverted to the family of the previous owner.

HFC therefore did not own the land. This hurdle seems to have been overcome as the land was subsequently sold to a property developer, without prior provision of alternative accommodation for HFC. Such action is hardly indicative of prudent management. HFC effectively rendered itself voluntarily homeless.

The proceeds of the sale were applied by HFC in an abortive attempt to impose the football club on the people of Holbrook who vehemently opposed the planning application for a new football ground. Horsham District Council (HDC) rejected it.

We now find HFC seeking to profit from the sale of a substantial portion of the Holbrook land in order to fund its latest aspirations. Paul Williams has pointed out that The Holbrook Club (THC) is itself a sports and social club and that many of the sports sections will be severely impacted by such loss.

It was reported at the recent THC annual meeting that possibly half the current playing field area would be lost. This will severely impact on all field sports, and likely put an end to cricket.

Holbrook has a history of supporting minority sport – an archery section has thrived on this site since its construction in the 1960s, and has spawned many County standard archers and one international. Four Record Status tournaments were hosted on the ground in 2010, but will not be possible in future if the sale goes ahead.

Please do not misunderstand me. I sincerely hope that HFC can fulfil its ambitions, but I question the cost to the Horsham community in lost amenity to further that one cause. How long before recurring financial problems force HFC to sell off more land at Holbrook? I might suggest that HFC owes the people of Horsham a duty to improve the sporting amenity of the town whose name it bears, not to deplete it.

The Holbrook Club is a proven, viable, multi-sport, not-for-profit organisation, run by its members, for its members - all 2,500 of them. It is a valuable asset to the town and deserves to succeed as much as HFC. Surely the three parties concerned - HFC, HDC and THC - can work together to make it happen for the benefit of all.


Redford Avenue, Horsham