Haverhill football project secures £321,000 grant

Peter Betts at the New Croft on the pitch were lottery money will be spent ANL-160401-152025009
Peter Betts at the New Croft on the pitch were lottery money will be spent ANL-160401-152025009

The future of Haverhill’s New Croft football and community facility has received a huge boost with the award of more than £320,000 towards the installation of a 3G floodlit pitch, galvanised railings and dug outs.

In total, £321,450 has been awarded by the Football Foundation (FF) from the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund towards the £601,450 project at the New Croft, which is managed by the Haverhill Community Sports Association (HCSA).

The facility is home to 39 Haverhill Rovers teams, plus the Haverhill Borough first team and reserves.

The main grass pitch is used by eight teams, including Rovers’ first XI, U21 and U18s, plus Rovers’ U14 and U15 Eastern Junior Alliance teams, a The Samuel Ward Academy British Colleges League side and the two Borough teams.

With such a burden on the one grass, floodlit pitch, steps had to be taken to alleviate the strain it was under, making the funding windfall music to the ears of everyone connected with the New Croft, including the facilities manager and Haverhill football development officer, Peter Betts.

It is also welcome news to Haverhill Borough, whose future at the ground was under jeopardy because of the overuse of the main pitch, but the confirmation of the FF grant means they will now stay at the New Croft and play their games on the 3G pitch, for which a main stand will also have to be installed to meet the ground grading requirements of the Thurlow Nunn League.

Mr Betts said: “To get a grant that size is huge - it’s the biggest grant that was handed out in the whole of East Anglia.”

A football development plan, outlining how the new facility will increase football participation in Haverhill, had to be produced to support the funding application. It is four inches thick.

The new floodlit pitch will be laid on what is currently an enclosed training pitch and its installation will benefit not just footballers, emphasised Mr Betts, but the various groups that use the New Croft, because it will increase the revenue that can go back into the entire site.

It will also mean social inclusion can be improved, helping to bring down anti-social behaviour and crime and offering more opportunities for disability football.

Mr Betts added: “Ultimately this 3G pitch is going to make this site sustainable for football development for years to come.

“For Haverhill Rovers and Haverhill Borough it’s massive because can this site (as it is) sustain all these teams ...no it can’t.”

A further £280,000 is still required to complete the project, but Mr Betts said the additional money will not be an issue.

He said: “HCSA are in negotiations with St Edmundsbury Borough Council and a third party funder to ensure this happens ready for an April/May start.

“There is a 12-week turnaround and we want it operational by the start of August.”

All 80 or so teams that are involved with the HCSA - including all the partner clubs such as Kedington Youth FC - would also be able to use the 3G pitch.

FA coach Jamie Godbold would also be able to deliver continuous personal development (CPD) courses on the new pitch, explained Mr Betts, which would develop grass roots volunteer coaches and subsequently improve and develop players.

A lot of work had to be done behind the scenes to ensure the grant bid was successful, and Mr Betts said: “Two other key people have been Tom Harrison, the (HCSA) board chairman - he is a volunteer, people forget that - and Nathan French, the Suffolk FA county development manager.”

“The county FA has gone beyond what we would expect to make sure we’ve got the full support and that Haverhill gets this.”

Sponsors are still being sought to cover the costs of the main stand for the 3G pitch. Anyone who would like to help should contact Peter Betts on 07539229114 or email bettsyhaverhillrovers@hotmail.co.uk.