Southwick FC will be returning to its home stadium, Old Barn Way, after resolving a leaseholder dispute with Adur District Council.
Tony Kybett, Chairman of Southwick Football Club (1882), said: “We are absolutely delighted that we have been given the opportunity to return to our home at Old Barn Way and look forward to working in partnership with the Russell Martin Foundation and being an integral part of the community based football project that the residents of Southwick and Adur can be proud of.”
Last year the team were forced to leave the ground after inspectors found ‘significant mismanagement issues and safety concerns’ at the site. It was believed that around £500,000 worth of work would have to be carried out in order to make the stadium safe for use again.
As a result of the decision Southwick FC – The Wickers – was forced to play at a local recreation ground and drop out of the county league; of which it was a founding member over a century ago.
There is a happy ending to the story however, for the Russell Martin Foundation has now signed a new 25-year lease on Old Barn Way, and it has also been agreed that Southwick FC will be offered the chance to play its home fixtures at the ground once vital repair work is completed.
“Without the tremendous support we have received locally, nationally and internationally the football club would have ceased to exist. Although it has been a frustrating ten months we acknowledge the work carried out by the officers and staff at the Council during these extraordinary times. They have ensured the proud history of football in Southwick will continue.”
The charity, backed by the former Rangers and Norwich player, is a Southwick-based not-for-profit organisation which seeks to change the lives of those in unfortunate circumstances through the many wonders of sport.
Pandemic permitting, the foundation will now work with the council to turn the ground into a community hub designed to promote not only football, but general health, wellbeing and physical education.
Alan Sanders, Chief Executive of RMF, said: “We are under no illusions about the task ahead of us given the condition the site is currently in. However, we have been extremely pleased with the discussions we’ve had with the Council and Southwick 1882 who, like us, are fully committed to ensuring that we make a real success of this fantastic opportunity. We can’t wait to get started.”
The foundation plans to work with the council to get academy football back towards the end of summer, before the resumption of the league calendar in September. The long term development of the site will also see the installation of a 3G pitch to make sure games can go ahead year-round, and structural site upgrades made to position Old Barn Way as a multi-use community hub.