Race against time to finish Broadbridge Heath’s new football ground

Broadbridge Heath Football Club's Tim Roberts, Paul Clark, Lin Curnock and Andy Crisp
Broadbridge Heath Football Club's Tim Roberts, Paul Clark, Lin Curnock and Andy Crisp

Broadridge Heath Football Club is in a race against time to have its new home ready for next season.

As part of a development of around 1,000 homes south of the village Countryside is delivering a range of community and sports facilities including a new football ground.

Broadbridge Heath football ground. Pic Steve robards SR1908718 SUS-190104-172953001

Broadbridge Heath football ground. Pic Steve robards SR1908718 SUS-190104-172953001

While the football club’s new pavilion was finished last summer a number of works have yet to be completed. The new pitches are not in a fit condition to use, with contractors missing numerous deadlines over the past year.

The league allowed the club to stay at its current home this season as a temporary measure.

But the situation is now becoming desperate as it has just weeks to have everything ready at the new ground so it can pass an FA ground grading for the 2019/20 season.

If this does not happen the men’s team could face expulsion from the league and this would put the entire future of the club in danger.

Broadbridge Heath's new football ground. Pic Steve Robards SR1908700 SUS-190104-172919001

Broadbridge Heath's new football ground. Pic Steve Robards SR1908700 SUS-190104-172919001

Andy Crisp, senior club secretary and director, said: “We are in a desperate situation because of not being in our new ground. If we are not in there in the next four weeks it could be disastrous for the club.”

The club has made urgent appeals to both Countryside and Horsham District Council.

Earlier this week it received a draft timetable of works due to be completed and a meeting has been arranged for next week.

Although the pavilion was finished last August the club has to wait until everything is finished and the entire ground handed over so volunteers can get in, fit everything and make sure it is all up to standard.

Broadbridge Heath new football ground 01-04-19 Pic Steve Robards SR1908688 SUS-190104-172836001

Broadbridge Heath new football ground 01-04-19 Pic Steve Robards SR1908688 SUS-190104-172836001

Currently the club is using the changing rooms in the new leisure centre with portable toilets for supporters, an ‘embarrassing’ situation for the club.

At present the new pitches are ‘in no way playable’.

The numerous delays have already cost the club dear, as it is supposed to be marking its 100th anniversary but due to the uncertainty has not been able to organise anything to celebrate the achievement.

Both a premiership and football league club had promised to send clubs down to play but this has not happened.

Broadbridge Heath's new football ground. Pic Steve Robards SR1908678 SUS-190104-172741001

Broadbridge Heath's new football ground. Pic Steve Robards SR1908678 SUS-190104-172741001

It has also lost out on advertising revenue, while a pre-school wanted to use the pavilion but has since gone elsewhere.

They have had enquiries from people wanting to host tournaments while there are exciting plans to establish women’s and girls’ teams at the new ground.

Tim Roberts, youth development manager, vice chairman of the junior section and a director, said: “It’s stuff that is slipping through our fingers on a daily basis.”

The club is currently applying to the league for next season and by June 1 has to say where it is going to play and have a ground that meets the grading requirements.

Andy said: “If we have not got a ground by June 1 we would probably be expelled from the league.

“We have told the council this but I do not think they realise the seriousness of the situation.”

Broadbridge Heath's new football ground. Pic Steve Robards SR1908697 SUS-190104-172908001

Broadbridge Heath's new football ground. Pic Steve Robards SR1908697 SUS-190104-172908001

If this happened they would drop down three divisions and would essentially be playing park football.

This would have a ripple effect right through the club and all teams including the juniors.

Paul Clark, junior club chairman, described how it was hard to attract young players and the club’s whole business plan is based on playing at the current level.

Tim said they were already struggling to accommodate the youth teams they have got, playing at a number of different locations.

The new ground has four pitches and Tim described it as massive for the club and community to have everything located in one place.

Paul added: “It’s a community facility that’s what we want to promote it as.”

The possibility of a new home for a club was mentioned at least two decades ago.

Malcolm Curnock, a long-time parish councillor and club stalwart, played a huge role in securing the new football ground. After he died in 2016 his widow Lin joined the executive committee to see the project through.

She described how people in the village are not aware of what is holding the project up and what is going on in the background.

She added: “We are doing this for the community and for the children.”

Club officials said it was ‘disheartening for everyone involved’ given they were supposed to be celebrating 100 years, while ‘frustration is starting to turn into anger’.

A Horsham District Council spokesman said: “The council remains committed to facilitating this project and doing everything within its remit to reach a final solution which meets the needs of the Broadbridge Heath Football Club and the local community. We are keen to see the club in its new home and continue to work closely with all parties to deliver this and are pleased that the work is due to be completed shortly.”

A Countryside spokesman said: “Countryside has invested over £30 million pounds in the provision of new infrastructure, community and sporting facilities at Wickhurst Green and has worked in partnership with Horsham District Council and Broadbridge Heath Parish Council to ensure these meet the needs of the local community as far as is possible.

“This has included evolving the proposals for the sports pitches beyond the scope of the original planning permission to provide a new home for Broadbridge Heath FC. The new facilities, which are now substantially complete, include a new £1 million pavilion, stadium and two full size football pitches, as well as a junior size pitch.

“These are being provided principally at the expense of Countryside, which has also sponsored Broadbridge Heath FC over the last seven years. Final works are now being undertaken by specialist contractors to ensure the pitches meet the appropriate standards following the adverse weather conditions experienced last summer and during parts of the winter and these works are scheduled to complete shortly.”