Hard work by many people: How Wickers secured return to spiritual home

This time last year, Southwick FC were a one-team adult football club with no youth section and a very depleted committee, writes Kerry Stanton of Southwick 1882 FC.

The community rallied round to show how much support there was for the club
The community rallied round to show how much support there was for the club

They were playing in a crumbling Stadium amid rumours that Adur District Council were to shut the ground because of spiralling debts and building neglect from a leaseholder.

In April a group of 16 dedicated youth players’ parents, all with various experience in youth football clubs, decided to set up a new youth football club, Southwick FC Youth.

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But in May it became apparent Southwick FC were going to have a huge hill to climb to get back into Old Barn Way, where they belong playing county level football.

Old Barn Way, where Southwick are set to return

The club had been denied access to the ground as it was deemed an unsafe environment.

The management and current players stayed loyal to the club and agreed to play the 2020-21 season in the Mid Sussex League.

Talks took place between the directors of Southwick FC and the committee of the newly formed youth section and it was agreed by both committees to affiliate to the Sussex FA as one club moving forward.

After a lot of hard work, by June the youth section had gone from strength to strength, with growing support from the Southwick community, local players and their parents.

Southwick 1882's first game at the rec, which was superbly supported by local people / Picture: Stephen Goodger

This put us in a position to enter four full youth squads (under-11s,13s,14s and u15s) into Mid Sussex Leagues for the new season. All this was set up via Zoom meetings as we were unable to meet face to face while the whole country was in the first lockdown.

We were overwhelmed by everyone’s commitment to our new venture.

Numerous local businesses approached us to offer sponsorship – from buying the managers’ teamwear to supplying home kits, away kits, training tops, waterproof jackets and equipment for more than 80 children.

During the summer we had to have a name change and Southwick FC and Southwick FC Youth merged to form the new community club Southwick 1882 FC.

In September the men’s team played their first league game at Southwick Recreation Ground. The atmosphere was incredible and showed the massive support from Southwick as a community, proving how much they deserve a local football club back in the ground where they belong.

Even though the 20-21 season has been the strangest yet, the setting-up of our new community club has really brought the people of Southwick together.

The youth section is looking to expand fast in the next few months with the addition of more age groups and the introduction of girls’ and women’s football, which is very much needed in our area.

We didn’t envisage how great the demand would be until our announcement for girls and women went out.

The response has been amazing and very positive, which just goes to show what a local community coming together can achieve in a short space of time and during a worldwide pandemic.

The future for Southwick 1882 is looking fantastic with the soon-to-be-agreed partnership with the Russell Martin Foundation and Adur District Council (reported here last week).

This will see the club return to Old Barn Way as a community club and being part of an exciting, inclusive football project.

There are too many people to thank, but as chairman Tony Kybett puts it: “We would like to thank the directors, club officials, players, family members and supporters together with the local and national organisations that have made this possible.”