Five years to the day since Lewes Football Club became a democratic, fan-owned community club, it realised a long-held dream and launched a new, 3G all-weather surface.
Plans for an all-purpose pitch have been a long time in the pipeline and the finished product was finally unveiled at the club on Wednesday, July 8.
Constructed by partners Support In Sport UK Ltd (SIS), the £850,000, FIFA-accredited complex is a multi-sports facility, available for the whole Lewes district.
‘The Rookery’, as it has been officially named, will encompass football, rugby, cricket, fitness groups, stoolball and much more, making it a real community asset for the area.
The new facility was grant-funded by the Football Foundation, Sport England, the government’s Regional Growth Fund Initiative, the Greater Brighton City Region, The Premier League and FA Facilities Fund, Lewes District Council and the SIB Group.
Lewes Football Club itself raised over £220,000 from its community owners. Sporting Assets also played a pivotal project role in sourcing funding and supporting the business planning behind the whole scheme.
Lewes FC director, Charlie Dobres, said: “Our long-held dream was always to build a 3G all-weather pitch for the community in Lewes and it has finally happened. The Rookery 3G is now ready.
“This new 3G facility has been two years in the planning. We’ve had lots of support along the way but could not have delivered on the project without the support of the Football Foundation and the Premier League and The FA Facilities Fund.
“This will be a facility for the whole of Lewes, for every man, woman and child, and we are creating a comprehensive programme of use to make that possible.”
The pitch is situated within the Lewes Priory School fields, adjacent to The Dripping Pan stadium. It is a facility that will be available to hire by the community for many sporting activities. There will also be six-a-side leagues for all ages and community initiatives, such as walking football, disability leagues and street 20 cricket.
The Rookery 3G was opened by former manager Steve ‘Ibbo’ Ibbotson, who was pivotal in maintaining the Rooks survival during the early transitional days of the new regime.
Also in attendance was a specially-invited audience in appreciation of those who have played a part in creating what will be a new era for the club, which is celebrating its 130th year since formation.
The day also marked the fifth anniversary since Lewes became a fan-owned community football club.
In 2009, the club was enduring difficult financial pressures off the pitch, facing three winding up petitions from the HMRC in four months.
Behind the scenes though, a group of six supporters calling themselves Rooks125 were working hard to take the club into community ownership.
Finally, on July 8, 2010, Lewes FC was officially transferred out of private ownership into a member-based Community Benefit Society called Lewes Community Football Club, consisting of benefactors and members of the former management committee.
The six members of Rooks125 formed the inaugural Executive Board, working as volunteers to install improved working practices and procedures during the season before planning to open up the wider membership of LCFC to all the club’s supporters in 2011/12. All board positions now are elected by the whole ownership base.
The club hit its target of attaining financial break-even within three years of becoming a community-owned club, and now has a very solid foundation on which to build for the future. It has more than 1,000 owners and has gained a great reputation for all its community work and stand-out marketing.
Lewes CFC ply their trade in the Ryman Premier League and will kick-off their 2015/2016 season in August.
The 3G facility is now open to take bookings, contact Kevin Miller on 01273 470820 or e-mail 3G@lewesfc.com. or visit the website; www.lewesfc.com/3g.
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