Stadium moves can turnaround the fortunes of non-league football


Newly constructed or renovated facilities can turnaround the fortunes of non-league football clubs. talkSPORT presenter Tony Incenzo takes a look at recent stadium moves.

It is always really interesting for me to analyse the progress of stadium moves by Non-League clubs.

New facilities can generate greater spectator interest at the turnstiles as well as bring an increase in community involvement. In addition, a glowing feeling of pride and enthusiasm exudes from the hard-working officials at the clubs involved.

With this mind, I have been visiting several of the newly built Non-League venues this season to take a look at what has been created.




National League North 

TigerTurf Stadium, New Meadow Park, Sudmeadow Road, Gloucester, Gloucestershire GL2 5HS.  

This is a very unusual project as the club had to rebuild and realign their old stadium after it was closed due to flooding. They now have a 3G artificial playing surface, two excellent spectator stands that provide 800 seats and good covered terracing behind both goals.

Gloucester City co-chairman Alex Petheram told me: “We played our last match at the old Meadow Park on 17th July 2007. A few days later this area experienced one of the most devastating floods in living memory forcing us to evacuate. We ground shared with Forest Green Rovers, Cirencester Town, Cheltenham Town and Evesham United before finally returning home after more than 13 years in exile.

“There were complex planning and environmental issues to overcome as well as the small matter of financing the construction! The footprint of the stadium was moved and raised by six metres which in itself was a huge undertaking.”



Combined Counties League Premier Division South 

Eastwood Leisure Centre, Albert Drive, Sheerwater, Woking, Surrey GU21 5RL. 

Sheerwater have moved into a stadium complete with 3G artificial pitch within the new £26 million Eastwood Leisure Centre. This is a large council-owned sporting complex at Bishop David Brown School.

The ‘Sheers’ had previously played for 50 years at a nearby athletics stadium that didn’t meet modern ground grading requirements for Non-League football. The pitch was only 100 yards long and there were problems with installing floodlights.

This site has now been replaced amidst a major regeneration scheme on the overall Sheerwater Estate with 1,140 new homes being built as well as hugely improved leisure amenities. The main feature of Sheerwater FC’s new home is a sturdy covered enclosure that runs the full length of one touchline with 100 seats in the middle section.

Sheerwater secretary Trevor Wenden said: “I am really pleased with the new set-up which has secured our future after a period of uncertainty. A big boost is that we run the new clubhouse bar, which brings fresh financial input for our club. It also helps to make everyone feel welcome on matchdays and attracts more spectators to attend home matches. We now have a modern ground which will serve the needs of Sheerwater Football Club for years to come.”



Southern League Premier Division South 

J & B’s Stadium, New Cuthbury, Ainsley Road, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 2FU. 

Located at the end of a new housing estate, this stadium features two grandstands containing 300 seats plus well-appointed covered standing areas at both ends.

Wimborne Town club secretary Wayne Jones said: “We are very happy with our new home. Apart from the stadium, we have a very nice clubhouse which is open throughout the week plus an outside 3G artificial pitch that brings us additional income from rental fees and helps with community involvement.”



Essex Senior League Premier Division 

Ashton Playing Fields, Chigwell Road, Woodford Bridge, Woodford Green, Essex IG8 8AA. 

Woodford Town have returned to their local area for the first time in 28 years after the original club lost use of their Snakes Lane ground in 1993.

Having soldiered on in expensive groundsharing agreements, the team finally have a base of their own following Redbridge Council’s £1.6 million investment at Ashton Playing Fields in Woodford.

In effect, the pre-existing athletics stadium has been upgraded to reach the facility requirements for Non-League football. The site has been fully enclosed, a smart 300-seater grandstand has been installed and there is a brand new clubhouse with two bars.

Woodford chairman Tony Scott said: “I have seen tremendous hunger in this area for a senior football team like ours. We can now build and grow Woodford Town with no restrictions from groundsharing. I am extremely pleased that football has come home to the very heart of the Woodford community. Our future looks bright.”



National League North 

LNER Community Stadium, Kathryn Avenue, Monks Cross Drive, Huntington. York YO32 9AF. 

After this former Football League club departed their much-loved Bootham Crescent home, which dated back to 1932, they have moved into the newly built LNER Community Stadium. This is three miles north of the city centre and forms part of a large leisure and retail park.

The stadium has 8,500 multi-coloured seats in four grandstands, which provide excellent sightlines of the pitch. Local newspaper reports suggest the venue cost in excess of £40 million and it is shared with the York City Knights Rugby League Club.

A club spokesperson said: “Our move to the LNER Community Stadium has been a great success. This season has seen an increase from a regular 2,500 crowd at Bootham Crescent to our current 3,100 average gate so far. We are slowly making our house a home and have brought the spirit of Bootham Crescent with us in features like the red and blue banners at the back of the Nfinnerty Stand, which commemorate the loss of former player David Longhurst, the Pop Stand clock, which is located within the new fanzone, and four wooden seats from the old Main Stand, which have been repositioned underneath the Nfinnerty Stand.

“The LNER Community Stadium boasts a state-of-the-art set-up for the modern football fan and importantly gives the club numerous new revenue streams which will allow us to progress on and off the field. Our old ground will never be forgotten but we look forward to making new memories going into our centenary year which begins in May.”

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Tony Incenzo is a reporter for talkSPORT Radio and Sky TV. You can follow Tony on Twitter at @TonyIncenzo