Long Melford Football Club reaches long-term lease agreement to keep bid for up to £600,000 towards clubhouse project alive
A 150-year-old football club has taken a major step towards securing its long-term future, after reaching an 11th-hour agreement to keep ambitions for a new £750,000 clubhouse alive.
A new 40-year lease for Long Melford Football Club (LMFC) and the Colts and Fillies youth teams to continue sharing use of the village playing field with Long Melford Cricket Club (LMCC) was finalised this week, in time for today’s deadline to meet the conditions of a grant of up to £600,000.
The project – led by the Long Melford Community Sports Trust – had been at risk of losing its chance to secure the funding, after lease negotiations between the two sports clubs stalled last month, prompting the parish council to step in to help facilitate an agreement.
It is understood that, without a new LMFC clubhouse at Stoneylands to replace the deteriorating existing facility, the football club’s long-term future would be in doubt.
At the monthly council meeting on Thursday, where members unanimously approved the lease, Jonathan Ewbank stated there had been great co-operation and compromise from all interested parties over the last three weeks to reach a deal.
“Without that agreement, the grant was in danger of not arriving,” he told councillors. “The parish council was asked to assist and we’ve done that.
“It has been a good village effort. We’ve done all that has been asked of us in terms of lease arrangements, and we’re now in a situation where, hopefully, the village will be presented with this grant, giving the football club a new start.
“It will give them the ability to create something that is of value to the community, as well as the club, and to strengthen the training it does with children, which is essential.
“The football club wants to build a wonderful new clubhouse that will stop it spiralling into a position that nobody wants it to be in.”
The parish council also agreed to contribute £500 as “a gesture of goodwill” towards the costs incurred by the cricket club in order to facilitate this new deal, with lease payments going to the Long Melford Community Association.
Cricket club chairman Jason Wade thanked the council for helping to drive the negotiations, stating he was happy with the outcome, and wished the football club success with the new development.
LMCC secretary Neil Sawyer added: “This is a once-in-a-generation project. We absolutely understand the value it will bring to the football club, the colts and fillies, and to the village in general.
“It comes at not inconsiderable cost to the cricket club, but we recognise that significant amounts of public funds will also be invested.
“From the outset, we agreed, as a club, to play our small part to help make the development happen.”
Following the meeting, Rob Bowden, vice-chairman of the Long Melford Community Sports Trust, said the group was cautiously optimistic the criteria to receive the grant had now been satisfied.
“It has been a brilliant effort by the community as a whole,” he told the Free Press. “We’re delighted by the way everyone has come together to try to get this project across the line, and fingers crossed we will have made it.”
More by this authorThomas Malina