Much has been written on social media recently about junior football at Riverside. Some was unhelpfully malicious and personal about our board members. That has made it hard to enter into a trusting dialogue with the Junior club committee about them returning to the site.
Regardless of any differences we or the club may have, as to who is to blame and why they decided not to use our facilities in 2021/22, they left at a critical time in the revision of the Town Investment Plan, which included Riverside. This had to be delivered to the government by January this year.
The assumption that junior football had been excluded is a wrong one. It was just not possible to specifically include that single-interest group, just as it was not possible to specifically include Rugby, archery, and many other potential field sports that had not declared a long-term interest. The plan will aim to include field sports areas for inclusive use by those who make a case for it during consultations.
For the town deal funding, UCVR has to complete a full business case by August 2022 and will be consulting as many potential stakeholders as possible during that process including junior football.
Far from being an organisation that has denied ‘grassroots’ sports the UCVR in fact opened the door to the Junior football club in 2017 as they had been excluded from the site by the previous tenants for many years. (See ‘Our Story’)
It has always been made clear to the club and the community that our intentions were to return the site to the original vision of a multi-use site.
The wider community have not had the benefit of this asset since it was built in 2000, and the Town Deal funding offers that once in a generation opportunity to take the site to another level of community use.
At the Town Deal citizens forum in November last year, the UCVR chair made a statement that the door was not closed to junior football.
Discussions have already taken place and we have accepted the club’s proposal to return to Riverside in September 2022. This is on the understanding the site will be a work in progress over the next few years and that might cause some interim distributions to use of, and or access to the site. Those discussions have progressed, and we have assured the club that we will do everything we can to minimise disruptions to the season ahead.
We will use the downtime on the playing fields this spring to undertake a programme of weeding and reseeding the main grass areas as was our commitment outlined in 2020/21.
Please do check back here in the near future for any further updates.