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Easington chairman calls for greater collaboration

Easington chairman calls for greater collaboration

JAMIE HUNTER1 May - 11:02
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Clan search for new home

Easington chairman calls for greater collaboration amid search for appropriate new home

Richard Meadows, Chairman at Easington Sports FC in Banbury, reflects on the achievements of 2023-24 and discusses how ambitious plans for the future can be met

Saturday’s United Counties Premier Division South fixture against Yaxley marked the end of another campaign which didn’t pass without its challenges, but one we can all be proud of.

Our first-team surpassed the number of points secured last season to further strengthen our position in tier five of the non-league pyramid.

Almost a dozen players progressed into our development squad - which provides a clear progression pathway for homegrown talent – and first-team squad with many in recent years advancing to higher levels of football.
Our ladies team lost only one game all season too en route to the Thames Valley Counties Division Three North title.

All great achievements, and underscored by our thriving youth, veteran and disability provisions which has seen membership climb above 600 for our 33 teams – a decade ago we only had five squads.
On the pitch, Easington Sports FC is thriving. And it’s thanks to our players, parents, volunteers and club partners for making every part of our present-day operation possible.

Speaking of a decade ago, it’s been that long since Hawkins Group first partnered with the club, and they’ve been a key supporter since. They secured our future in 2014 when completing essential clubhouse roofing works and delivering covered spectator seating, standing areas and dugouts which are a requirement for step five football.

Hawkins Group continues to support the club today by backing our annual youth tournament, first-team, ladies and PAN disability sides, so a huge thank you to everyone concerned.

However, the sad reality is no commercial agreement on any scale can enable Easington Sports FC to continue its growth by enhancing programmes and supporting our community in line with development plans as we face unprecedented challenges concerning training facilities, flooding and floodlight issues and our clubhouse changing rooms.

It has been a particularly bad season for rainfall – volumes of which we have never experienced before in our proud 78-year history. This isn’t an issue exclusive to our first team, the impact of pitch flooding is far bigger than that.

Across Banbury, scores of games have been called off resulting in significant financial and emotional stress from myself as chairman down to our foundation-level participants.

As a club we have reached a ceiling. Overcoming issues mentioned on our current site and meeting the needs of Banbury and north Oxfordshire communities requires relocation.
Subsequently, further collaboration between ourselves, Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire County Council is required so the true potential of our club can be met by establishing a new football-hub which serves not only our members but residents too.

Let’s not forget Banbury is still without a single 3G pitch – which seems absurd for a town of more than 54,000 people with that number continually growing.

Details of Cherwell District Council’s Local Plan for 2040 are still yet to be finalised, and so if we are to plan for our growth – which will inevitably happen as Banbury grows – we need to consider our long-term location within this plan. Encompassed within the Local Plan is the Playing Pitch Strategy – which sets clear priorities for sport within its boundaries.

As an FA Level 3 accredited club with more members than any other football setup locally, we are keen to identify sites which can help break the ceiling we’ve struck where we can work with schools and community sites allocated in the next phase of residential developments around Banbury.

We’re fortunate to have backing from the FA, and Banbury MP Victoria Prentis who recognises our challenges and has committed to working with the club to enhance the current provisions we provide.
As mentioned earlier, on the pitch we are thriving. It’s now imperative key decision makers locally recognise the potential our club has to provide people with a purpose, help them make new connections and develop skills and qualities in our players which will last a lifetime.

Enjoyment, sportsmanship, friendship, challenge – with help these club philosophies can remain attached to communities within Banbury for many years to come.

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