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Saturday 3rd December 2016 ko 14.00

Hellenic League Division One East

HEADINGTON AMATEURS 1 (L Cuff 65)

SANDHURST TOWN 2 (Bryce 24 41)

Att 16

Entry & Programme £2

This season there’s been a steady stream of clubs finding a way to return home. The likes of Hadley and Slough have got new grounds, but one return has rather sailed under the radar. Headington Amateurs have returned home, but unlike the other clubs this has been far from a happy ending.

The club were founded in 1949, the year Headington, now Oxford United turned professional. Their roots lie in pub football, the team came from the Britannia Inn, in the London Road, opposite the entrance to United’s former home, the Manor Ground.

They settled on a pitch at Horspath Road Sports Ground, behind the car works, but soon moved to the Barton Estate, to the ground they’re best known for, at the bottom of Barton Village Road. Make no mistake, the club’s roots lie in Barton, the Sunday side who also played there was Barton United.

The ground wasn’t without issues, there was a clubhouse and a railed off pitch, and not much else. The Hellenic League gave them special dispensation, which is a rather grand way of saying that due to a lack of clubs with suitable facilities they wouldn’t be forced out of the league until there were. But last year they were dealt another blow, but the real sickener was that at first it looked like a helping hand.

Labour-controlled Oxford City Council wanted to develop land to the north of the city and to the west of Barton. That included Amateurs’ ground so the council agreed to allow Amateurs to play elsewhere for a season while the building took place. The idea was that property developers Grosvenor would build a mixed development of homes, and the planning gain would get Headington Amateurs a Hellenic League compliant ground.

That would mean the ground would be fully enclosed, have a seated stand and floodlights. Amateurs would play a season back at Horspath Road, not on their original outside pitch, but in the athletics stadium, where the floodlights and stand were already in situ. But all-to rapidly the politicians’ promises began to unravel….

The first problem was the athletics stadium. Now whilst the running track was never going to make it ideal for football, it was better than Barton Village Road, but it was discovered that the shot putt pit had been cut into what would have been the pitch. The council refused to pay to reconfigure the stadium, so Amateurs are on the back pitch.

The council have put in posts and plastic chain on two sides, and the club have roped off the rest. It’s nowhere near Hellenic League compliant, in fact its barely compliant for the Oxon Senior League. But Amateurs are only here for a year aren’t they? Well, maybe not it seems.

Here’s Grosvenor’s press release in April 2016 (click here) and note the line,”the relocation of an adult turf sports pitch. ” That’s not the creation of a Hellenic League compliant ground, and the plans show the reality to be even worse.

Click through and scroll down to page 2 and you’ll see what’s being built is what the developer thinks is simply replacing one railed-off pitch with another. The issue, other than it not being what the club were promised, is that there’s no floodlights and no room to build a stand. It’s clear that the club’s needs have been entirely forgotten; did the council not consider a community sports hub should include the community’s own football club? Or was their thinking entirely financial?

What happens next is anyone’s guess. The club want to be back in Barton, but sooner or later the lack of facilities in the plans will cost them their place in the Hellenic, and this “Temporary” ground is even worse. Hopefully the council, or a benefactor will pay the £10,000 cost of moving the shot putt and allowing this friendly club to have a proper home. Or is it too late to alter the Barton Park plans?

If seeing Amateurs at such a lowly ground was a shock, then I felt much the same way about visitors Sandhurst Town, who I still think of as a Combined Counties League outfit, and a good one at that. Sandhurst won a close, and sometimes feisty game, but as the sun set over the Cowley Works, the overarching feeling was of a decent club who are being grossly let down by a local authority who exist at least in part to look after them. Hopefully the building over 800 homes will net at the very least the £10,000 to allow the club a proper home.

 

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