How Brighton and Hove Albion have helped a stricken football club return home
A sum of £50,000 is set to be spent bringing Southwick FC’s football ground up to scratch as new leaseholders get ready to take over the facility - and it's thanks in no small way to Brighton and Hove Albion.
After recently taking back the lease on the site in Old Barn Way, Adur District Council has identified several major building defects and has earmarked the money for immediate repairs.
The money will be spent on roof repairs, floodlight upgrades and rebuilding boundary walls. The council wants to act so that the new tenants can move in and begin work offering community football schemes as soon as possible.
Last month the council announced that football was set to return to the ground after agreeing a deal with a former Premier League footballer's charity to take over the facilities in Old Barn Way.
Because of significant mismanagement issues and safety concerns, the council ended the agreement with the former leaseholder at Southwick FC last year.
A new 25-year lease has been agreed with the Russell Martin Foundation (RMF), a Southwick-based not-for-profit organisation which uses the power of football to help change people's lives.
The charity, which is backed by the former Norwich City and Rangers player, has plans to work with the council to refurbish the entire site, transforming it into a community football hub, which promotes health, wellbeing and education in the area.
RMF has also agreed to offer the newly reformed Southwick Football Club (1882) the chance to use the ground for their home fixtures, meeting the ambition to return affiliated football to Old Barn Way.
Cllr Emma Evans, Adur District Council’s executive member for the environment, said: "I am pleased that we are able to spend this sum on immediate repairs. We have always taken the view that this ground is an important community resource in Southwick and now that we have taken action and have RMF on board I am sure we can continue to work together to bring the facilities up to scratch for footballers of all ages to enjoy."
The money for the repairs comes from sums that Brighton and Hove Albion FC contributed to the Council when the club’s training facilities at Lancing were given the go-ahead in 2013. Under government regulations developers have to make a financial contribution to compensate for the loss of an open space.
Thus far the £1.35 million contribution from the Seagulls has, among others projects, funded 3G football pitches at Sir Robert Robert Woodard Academy, changing rooms at Croshaw Recreation ground changing rooms, improvements at Wadurs and a skateboard park in Lancing.
Approval is sought for the Southwick funding at a virtual meeting of Adur & Worthing Councils’ Joint Strategic Committee on Tuesday (March 30).