After years of planning, discussions and negotiations Eastbourne Borough FC has announced that work to convert the main stadium pitch to a state-of-the-art third generation artificial pitch will start this summer, in a year that marks the Club’s 50th anniversary.
Board Chairman, Paul Maynard, and Vice Chairman, Lee Peskett, signed off on an innovative lease purchase finance agreement with CF Capital on Thursday 24th March, under which funds for the construction of the pitch will be released to the contractors during the construction phase and repaid over the course of the next six years.
This has only been made possible with the support and blessing of Eastbourne Borough Council who has underwritten the funding by entering into a Step In Agreement with CF Capital.
The Club’s preferred contractor S&C Slatter, who installed the pitch at Sutton United last year, will commence work at Priory Lane on 9th May. Supporters can follow progress through a webcam, which can be accessed via the Club’s website. The work will be completed by 15 July with the grand opening scheduled for Saturday 16th July.
The Vertex 360 XL turf, which has the highest level of FIFA and World Rugby certification, will be supplied by market leaders FieldTurf, who also supplied the artificial turf pitches for our non-league rivals Maidstone and Sutton. FieldTurf is part of the same group who supply the hybrid pitches for Wembley, White Hart Lane and the Emirates Stadium.
At the same time, the Club intends to convert the existing concrete hardstanding to the north of the stadium into a self-contained facility with two mini artificial pitches, which will be ideal for training sessions or small sided games.
The Club has also announced a five year user agreement with Soccersixes, the largest FA affiliated provider of five and six aside leagues in the UK, who are already well established in the town.
Soccersixes will be operating leagues on at least four nights a week with all matches taking place on the main stadium pitch. Further announcements about these arrangements will be made in the forthcoming weeks, but it is anticipated that at least 1000 local footballers will be playing in these leagues each week, with scope to expand this number in the future.
Soccersixes’ Development Director, Matt Scoffham, commented: “We’re delighted to be able to offer our teams the opportunity to play at Priory Lane from 1st August onwards and we’re very grateful to Eastbourne Borough for this opportunity. We already have over 80 teams competing in our 6-aside leagues throughout Eastbourne; we’re confident that this will double in size before the end of 2016.”
An agreement has also been reached for Eastbourne Borough Youth FC, which will see them move their winter training to the 3G pitch, whereas at the moment the various squads are training at disparate sites across the town. This will also give the Club the scope to expand its already successful Academy and Development Centre programmes and further exciting announcements will be made about this very shorty.
Paul Maynard said: “This is one of the most significant developments in the Club’s history and it’s a great way to mark our 50th anniversary. We have wanted to construct a 3G pitch at Priory Lane for years but the funding has never been available. When the National League confirmed last year that its member clubs could play their matches on FIFA 2 star artificial pitches, we were able to devise a business plan to enable us to convince the likes of CF Capital and the local
council that such a plan made sound economic sense. In future years, this should enable us to come up with a playing budget that can not only sustain the Club financially in this league, but in the league above as well. This should demonstrate to everyone that the Club remains as ambitious as ever.
“Whilst finance is the main driver for our decision, there are many other benefits that will flow from the development. We have always been a Club at the heart of the community and for the first time all of our youth teams can train on the same site. We have ambitious plans to expand the Academy and Development Centre and to make Eastbourne Borough the football hub of East Sussex and beyond. We will be able to host cup finals, charity and benefit matches, school competitions and with vastly increased visitor numbers to Priory Lane this should help swell the crowds on match days; that has certainly been the experience of other clubs who have gone down this route.
“I also firmly believe that playing on a 3G pitch will suit our style of football; we’re always at our best when playing a quick passing game and despite having one of the best grass pitches in non-league football we always seem to suffer a dip in form mid-season when pitches start to get heavier. An all-weather pitch should encourage more consistent home performances.
A huge amount of effort has gone into getting us to this stage and I’m grateful for the enthusiastic work of the entire Board who were unanimous in their support of this project. The discussions with S&C Slatter and CF Capital have been painstaking at times and we’re grateful for their patience and perseverance. A special thank you must also go to David Tutt, Rob Cottrill and Celia Cullen at Eastbourne Borough Council for making the finance agreement possible.”
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