WORTHING Football Club hope that a 3G pitch at Woodside Road will safeguard the future of the club.
Rebels have submitted a planning application with Worthing Borough Council to construct a 3G playing surface and hope to have it installed for next season.
The construction cost will be more than £300,000, funded via commercial mortgage and some forward-funding for pitch usage, and they hope to have the initial investment repaid within three years.
Rebels anticipate that it could take eight weeks to get planning permission but they hope to begin the process of constructing the 3G pitch at the end of this season. It would take 12 weeks to install, which would see the surface in place by July, and Worthing will invite Brighton & Hove Albion to play the first game on the 3G surface in a pre-season friendly in early August.
Rebels chairman Lee Noakes said: “It’s fantastic news. It’s been in the pipeline for the last six months and we feel it will be the answer to all our problems.
“It will be there 24-7 and it will safeguard the future of the club. It will bring in revenue for the club all-year round and it really is exciting times.”
With a whole host of games postponed owing to waterlogged pitches in recent weeks, Rebels believe a 3G surface is the way forward.
They have held talks with Worthing College about usage of the pitch, and also plan to speak to local schools about day-time use. Several youth sides would also use the artificial pitch, along with the local community.
Ryman League side Rebels believe around 1,000 to 1,500 players would use the pitch each week, with the increased footfall helping to generate full-and part-time jobs at the club.
The Conference does not currently allow teams with artificial surfaces to play in their leagues, although Worthing hope the success of Maidstone’s 3G surface will help lobby a change to the Conference rules.
Worthing’s business development director Julian Church said: “The planning application is the first part of a proposed phased re-emergence of the club into the local community and a requirement to provide an ongoing business case for the club which, without operating more in its community, shall be forced to close, if revenue can not be balanced more effectively.
“The 3G pitch was considered and discussed by the new board members on joining the club in July and the planning application sees the first public example of the work that we have been doing. Our current revenue streams are only through matchdays and hire of our facilities, which is hampered by the weather and natural wear and tear in respect to the pitch.”
Worthing have been working with specialist consultants, Breen Consulting, who have extensive experience in this field, and Church added: “They have provided this advice to national governing bodies, including the Football League and the FA in Ireland, central and local government, as well as communities and clubs.
“They shall continue to help monitor the installation of the pitch with my company undertaking the project management and quantity surveying elements free of charge.
“Our current purpose and strategy is to convert our stadium pitch into an all-weather surface that meets the requirements of the FIFA quality concept.
“The cost of construction of the pitch replacement shall be circa £325,000, excluding VAT. This shall be funded via commercial mortgage and some forward funding for pitch usage. With a prudent estimate of commercial and educational usage, we believe that we shall be able to pay back this initial investment within three years, although commercial loans shall be structured to provide appropriate contingency time for payment.”
Church hopes the 3G pitch will help raise Rebels’ profile and said: “We are seeking to raise our community profile and make the club a centre for community gathering. We believe that the additional footfall around the club each week would increase by approximately 1,000-1,500 players, plus parents each week, with training and exercise for squads from toddler groups through to the Ryman League squad.”
Rebels would also look to run after-school clubs and Church said: “The club shall be open for community use every day. Footfall shall be constant and, with that, a development of understanding of club identity and affinity. It shall be of benefit to the lives of the local grassroots youth players through to the first team players.
“In respect to how the pitch will benefit the club, we prudently estimate that we may be able to generate circa £100k revenue from the hire and usage of the pitch per annum, plus a further indirect revenue of circa £50k.
“This equates to approximately our current annual turnover.
“This takes the pressure off the matchday revenue to pay the likes of business rates, utility bills, playing budget, plus maintenance and upkeep, which has, in recent years, been drastically reduced.”
Rebels have other plans to improve Woodside Road as well and Church added: “The pitch is the first phase of three proposed phases of review.
“The second phase to consider is the requirements for additional changing, meeting, educational, hospitality and catering facilities at the ground.
“This shall be within the footprint of the existing stands and accommodation, with some infilling proposed and more detailed mass considerations shall be applied for in an initial outline planning proposal to follow shortly.
“The replacement of the nearly time-expired floodlights that we have at the ground shall be a third phase.
“We shall seek to get part Football Trust funding and utilise the more modern LED-focused lighting to improve pitchside lighting quality, without our neighbours suffering from any additional or improved levels of lighting bleed.”