Page 28 - ONSIDE Issue 30

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Our story goes back eight years, when we were
asked to look after the Gosfor th Fields site by
Derbyshire County Council. At that point, it
was literally just 26 acres of football fields and
rugby fields and a very old bit of redgra (an old-
fashioned ar tificial pitch).
We knew that we could look after it, but we had
higher ambitions.We wanted to improve the site
and build a proper clubhouse and changing rooms.
We were just going to aim as high as we possibly
could and see what we could achieve.
We star ted talking to Brian Peck who was the
Football Development Officer at Sheffield and
Hallamshire FA, and to Mark Pover, then The
FA’s Area Facility Manager. Mark managed our
expectations, pointing out that these things don’t
happen overnight.
It was from there that we star ted to build.There
were 12 of us driving the project – all volunteers.
And, every one of us had full-time jobs and
very diverse backgrounds, from a builder, to
an accountant, from a managing director of a
company, to a senior salesman. Each of us had our
own skills-set that we brought to the project.
We had some great feedback from the
Foundation’s Investment Programme Manager. He
was brilliant. He came up and visited the place two
or three times. In fact, he was the one that actually
presented our bid to the Foundation Board.
After about five years of putting all this together it
eventually got through Board approval, and we got
the Foundation grant, which was massive. I think
it was one of the biggest that the Foundation had
ever given out – £996,000.
We matched the Foundation’s grant with funding
from other streams, including Spor t England,
WREN, the RFU and another large chunk came
out of Derbyshire County Council because, thanks
to Spor t England, a por tion of the land that we
were tenanting was allowed to be sold-off to a
developer, and the majority of the proceeds put
towards our match-funding.
The actual construction side took just under 12
months and we opened the site back in early 2010.
Luckily enough, I had met Sir Trevor Brooking at
Wembley about a year and half previously when
he presented me with The FA’s award for Char ter
Standard Club Administrator of theYear. He
remembered me, and kindly agreed to officially
open the site. He was marvellous and stayed for
about five hours. It was a great day.
There are three key local spor ts clubs involved
in the project – two football, one rugby. AFC
Dronfield was purely a boys’ football club.
Dronfield Town FC was a mixture of boys and girls.
Dronfield Rugby Club meanwhile only really had
two teams.
In applying to the Foundation, we had to do a
Development Plan. Dronfield Town was already a
Char ter Standard football club but AFC Dronfield
was not. And Dronfield Rugby Union had not
achieved their clubmark from the RFU. So we each
were set cer tain goals.The rugby club had to get
their clubmark and begin providing oppor tunities
for youngsters.
AFC Dronfield were targeted with at least getting
to FA Char ter Standard Club Status and Dronfield
Town, because it already had girls, boys and seniors
sections, was targeted with making itself an FA
Community Char ter Standard football club.
All three clubs at this time effectively had
different bits of their club on different sites,
so a real challenge was to make sure we had
access to sufficient pitches and training from
these improvements.
Once we had achieved this, the challenge then
became to involve other spor ts and clubs in the
community, including local schools.
Today, we’re actually at a position that because it
is such a great facility, we’re at full capacity. Most
grassroots spor t takes place on Saturdays and
Sundays and we have quite a juggle on at the
moment trying to fit in the number of teams!
The British Long Bow Society use our fields for
their annual tournament.We have an American
Football team playing their summer season on one
of our rugby pitches. So we have really diversified
the spor ts that take place in Dronfield.
Dronfield Town has run a local primary school
football tournament for both girls and boys at the
facility for the last three years as well.
So we’re quite diverse now in what we do, but we
are always looking at other ways to improve. For
the last year and a half the Foundation’s Activity
and Sustainability Advisor (ASA) has been helping
to increase par ticipation at the site even fur ther.
The ASA would meet with Tony Gilber thorpe,
our Facility Manager, and me, and we have tried
one or two new things as a result.We have run
football sessions for the unemployed to give them
something constructive to do and obviously to
utilise the facility in the daytime a little bit more.
We’ve also been doing an after-school club.
The rugby club’s juniors sections meanwhile,
has taken off massively.They are going to have
somewhere in the region of five or six junior sides
in the coming season, having had none before.They
have tag rugby on a Sunday morning for kids as
young as seven. So thanks to the new facility, they
have increased from zero juniors to approximately
100 juniors.They are doing really well.
Dronfield Town has star ted its own ‘nursery’. On
a Saturday morning the Vice-Chairman and I run
toddlers’ football coaching sessions for 4–7 year
olds. And we get anywhere between 20 and 35
turning up.
The Foundation facility is also an important link
between the professional game and the grassroots.
SheffieldWednesday’s development school uses
our facility on Saturday mornings for its outreach
work. Sheffield United also uses the facility for their
holiday camps.
If anything, it is proving too popular. I have
people coming from across the region wanting
to use the site because there are so few like this,
which can be tricky, as we obviously went through
the years of hard work building this site so that
the Dronfield and surrounding communities
could benefit.
It’s impossible to properly convey the scale of the
positive impact the new pavilion, the ar tificial pitch
and the grass pitches have had on the community.
Every town should have one.
A simply stunning site
in a Sheffield suburb.
DronfieldTown FC Club Secretary, Darren Bradwell,
describes the huge impact their big Foundation-funded
pavilion and artificial pitch are making, two and a half
years on.
| The Football Foundation Magazine | Issue 30