Chris Evans reports…
GROUND UPGRADES UNVEILED AT LITTLE OAKLEY FC
Acorns Officially Welcome New Facilities
Investment from the Premier League, which has been delivered by the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF), meant Little Oakley FC were able to unveil their ground upgrade project to enthusiastic supporters recently.
The funding has allowed Oakley, who play in the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League Division One, to make a number of improvements to their home ground. This has included installing new floodlights, boundary fencing, secure storage and two spectator stands.
A new floodlighting system will provide the club with better scheduling flexibility for training and matches, as well as improved safety. This is set to benefit Little Oakley’s three adult teams and 19 youth teams – a range of male and female sides from the Under 7s to Under 18s levels. Boundary fencing and storage, meanwhile, will improve overall security for the ground.
Two brand new stands have also been installed, which will provide a comfortable environment for all fans. Previously, the club had no covered matchday provision. Now, they can offer space for 50 seated and 50 standing spectators, as well as five wheelchair users. The club hope this will support them in inspiring new fans to visit the club, as well as retaining their existing followers.
Other works undertaken during the project include installing new hard standing, pitch perimeter fencing and dugouts. The club, including dedicated groundsmen Steve Gawn and James Martin, who have been looking after the club’s facilities for many years, are delighted with the outcome.
Oakley’s upgrades have helped them to meet the Grade ‘G’ requirements of the FA National Ground Grading Criteria for their new Step Six position. This was made possible by a £72,962 grant from the Premier League, which is delivered through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund – the sister organisation of the Football Foundation.
The FSIF is funded with £6.5m each year from the Premier League. It is the country’s largest provider of grants towards projects which help improve the comfort and safety of lower-league football grounds in both the professional and amateur game. These improvements range from new football stands and turnstiles to floodlighting and improved provision for disabled supporters.
Michael Good, Little Oakley Chairman, said: “The club is extremely grateful to the Football Stadia Improvement Fund and the Premier League for the funding contribution that has enabled us to complete the project.”
Essex County FA Development Manager, Nick Emery, also reacted: “It’s great to see one of our FA National Leagues System clubs benefiting from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund and their new stand goes a long way to improving the matchday experience for all.”
Peter McCormick OBE, Chairman of the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, added: “Congratulations go to Little Oakley FC for their efforts throughout this project. The FSIF, thanks to investment from the Premier League, works hard to support clubs as they work to move up through the game and this is a great example of what that money can achieve.”
“I hope that Little Oakley FC are able to make the most of their ground improvements and that their fans enjoy the new, more comfortable spectator provision. I’m sure that this project will support the club in further growth, both through developing their players and encouraging more locals to come along for fixtures.”