A 3G pitch for Priory Lane? Yes, and the sooner the better. On Saturday Eastbourne Borough gave the clearest statement yet of the club’s intent – and it could happen this summer.
The ambitious project, which would see the main pitch replaced by a state-of-the-art 3G playing surface, is key to the Borough’s future, according to club officials.
I am 100% on board with this. It will be a huge boost for my first team players and for our Academy and youth teamsEastbourne Borough manager Tommy widdrington
It would provide an income stream of up to £100,000 per year, and could be used by club and community alike – with the extensive Priory Lane social and catering facilities also gaining from thriving activity.
Speaking to a full house Q & A session after Saturday’s home win over Gosport, football chairman John Bonar and manager Tommy Widdrington both enthused over the plans.
Widdrington said, “I am 100% on board with this.
“It will be a huge boost for my first team players and for our Academy and youth teams. We will have a guaranteed training facility seven days a week, regardless of weather.
“The quality of these pitches now is unrecognizable from those early days of plastic. It’s hardly different from playing on actual grass, and I am sure the spectators will be delighted.”
And Bonar stressed that the project is no pipe-dream. Speculation had suggested that the time-scale might need to be extended to Summer 2016, if it relied either on major sponsorship or on the lengthy process of seeking Government grants. But Saturday’s message was much more immediate.
“Funding is already in place to go ahead at the end of this season,” declared Bonar. “We have chosen not to be dependent on grant aid, because that comes with too many strings attached.
The new pitch will be entirely owned and controlled by Eastbourne Borough Football Club, so that – while also serving our community – it is the football club that will reap the benefits.
“We are of course happy to work with business partners and we will actively pursue further sponsorship channels. We are convinced that this is an exciting pathway forward for the football club, and a highly attractive proposition for sponsors.”
It is expected to cost the club between £350,000-£375,000 to install the surface at Priory Lane.
Over a month ago the Football Conference confirmed all member clubs will be able to convert their main playing surfaces into FIFA two-star 3G pitches.
Other Vanaram Conference South Clubs look to have the same idea in mind as Borough, with Sutton United and Maidenhead United similarly looking to join them in a 3G future.
Further announcements are expected, as club officials now pursue practical and contractual issues, before making final decisions on the club’s bold new future.