Update on the Berkhamsted Community Stadium project
Here’s what you need to know about the project to create a “Berkhamsted Community Stadium” for the benefit of our town. Add your comments at the bottom of the page.
The project, in brief
Berkhamsted Raiders CFC is driving a project to create a “Berkhamsted Community Stadium” (BCS) on the existing stadium site at Broadwater Stadium. We are proposing that the Berkhamsted Community Stadium is managed by a Berkhamsted Community Sports Trust, involving representatives of the landowners (BSGCA – see below), the sports clubs that will use stadium and its facilities, and the wider community.
The vision embraces a complete rebuild of the existing buildings at Broadwater and the laying of an artificial grass pitch (AGP).
Although football will be the priority sport, the project is aimed at extending the use of the facility to a much wider range of sports. It can provide a shared base/home/club house for other growing sports in our town, such as cycling and running, a training facility for Berkhamsted Rugby Club and a facility for day time use by local schools.
It is a major project with a budget of £1m plus. In partnership with Ashlyns School, Berkhamsted Raiders raised funding of c £750,000 to create BerkoAstro and the Paul Beard Centre in 2010. So, the Club has a proven track record of raising significant funds for such projects and ensuring that they are financially viable.
The Herts FA has expressed its support for the project. The FA/Football Foundation intend to invest significant additional funds into grassroots football in the coming years. Berkhamsted Raiders and our town is well positioned to access that funding. We want a share of the funds that will be made available nationally to be invested in sport in Berkhamsted, our town.
We have explored various locations within the town where an investment in sports facilities might be possible. The view of Raiders, the FA and local planning advisors is that the logical and most financially beneficial location for a major investment is Broadwater Stadium which is on an area of land which is already dedicated to sporting use. The Broadwater Stadium is an ageing facility which at some stage is going to require significant investment. The project will create a modern community sports facility, open to a much wider community.
We have worked on a rationale, a funding plan and a break even financial model for the project. We have applied to Dacorum BC for Pre Planning Advice in order that we will be able to work through any possible planning issues formally (see below).
- Berkhamsted FC gets a state of the art stadium with guaranteed use, which supports its long term aims and no longer bears the financial burden of maintenance, repair and renovation of an ageing asset.
- Berkhamsted Raiders CFC gains additional training and playing facilities for its 1,100 players, is able to accommodate the 100 on its waiting list, and its aim to double the number of girls and women involved in football.
- The town’s rugby club has somewhere to train.
- The growing Berkhamsted Cycling Club gains a home. Other sports clubs such as running may wish to base themselves in the shared facility.
- Local schools and the local community have access to a community sports hub.
- It provides a focus for a range of sports and their members.
Who owns Broadwater Stadium?
Broadwater Stadium is owned by the Berkhamsted Sports Grounds Charitable Association (BSGCA). The BSGCA was established in 1924 with the following objective:
- “To provide the people of Berkhamsted and its environs with amenities for recreation and leisure… through the provision of sports facilities and clubhouses to organisations whose primary objectives are to play indoor and outdoor sports and games.”
The BSGCA owns land and facilities at Broadwater (the stadium used by Berkhamsted FC) and a small part of the Tennis Club land, and Kitchener’s Field (Berkhamsted Cricket Club).
Berkhamsted Raiders CFC, in brief
Berkhamsted Raiders was founded in 1996. It has grown to be one of the most respected youth football clubs in the UK. Raiders has been awarded the national FA Charter Standard Community Club of the Year and the UEFA European Grassroots Club of the Year – Silver Award.
The Club has grown from 100 or so playing members to close to 1,100 playing members from U7 to U18 in season 2018/19. The Club has a waiting list of around 100 boys and girls but does not have the facilities to provide sport for them. In addition to its youth section, the Club operates a Ladies team, a Veterans team, a Senior team, a Futsal team, and offers Walking Football and Inclusive (Disability) Football. Our fastest growing section is Girls Football. It is a priority in terms of the club’s development and needs space to expand.
Berkhamsted FC, in brief
Berkhamsted Town FC was founded in 1919. In 2009, the Club was dissolved due to outstanding debts. In the summer of 2009, supporters established a new club, Berkhamsted FC. Last season, the BFC was promoted to Step 4 of the non-league pyramid.
The long-term tenant of Broadwater Stadium is Berkhamsted FC (BFC), a limited company. BFC benefits from a low annual rent (£750 pa) for the stadium facilities.
The future of football
Non-league clubs such as BFC face a continual challenge. Male senior football in the UK is in decline. An FA study notes that around 500 grassroot clubs disappear each year. Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning adult male football is in decline – our local Berkhamsted Sunday League has fallen from 60 teams to 30 teams.
The good news is that other forms of football are flourishing, helping to offset the decline in senior male football:
- Girls and womens football is growing. There are now 6,767 affiliated female teams, up from 6,000 in 2016-17, with a 15.9 per cent increase in female Mini-Soccer teams.
- The number of teams involved in 5 a side leagues is now over 26,000 – involving all ages, all genders, and all races.
- Social football is booming – turn up and play with group of friends on a 3G pitch.
- Walking football for the older footballer is taking off. There are more than 1,100 teams registered to play – up from 200 just four years ago.
- Futsal is growing (and is a major priority at Raiders). There are an estimated 25,000+ people playing futsal in England
Challenges for non-league clubs
Non-league adult senior clubs around the UK have recognised these changes, are looking to the future of football and have made major investments to embrace and benefit from these changes. Artificial Grass pitches have been a major part of their strategy – Sutton Utd, Maidstone, Thame, Slough, AFC Sudbury, Harlow Town, Carshalton Athletic, Aveley, Yaxley, Haverhill Rovers, Lichfield City, Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth, Coleshill Town, Harborough Town … to name but a few. And most recently plans have been announced for a 3G pitch at Ware FC. These non-league clubs have seen the benefits of investing in an artificial grass pitch, and creating a facility for the wider community. They haven’t seen an exodus of players or supporters.
A Berkhamsted Community Stadium will guarantee the long-term future of Berkhamsted FC. A state of the art stadium with priority of use for senior football, BUT shared with the wider sports community in the town. It does not mean the end of Berkhamsted FC; it means a viable and sustainable future.
Raiders involves 1,100 playing members and 2,000 parents. The majority of these have never set foot, and probably will never set foot in the Broadwater Stadium. BFC attracts around 100 supporters to home games. Imagine how this number might grow if BFC worked positively with the community football club that is on its doorstep.
We acknowledge that the directors of Berkhamsted Football Club Limited, the leaseholders at Broadwater Stadium, are not supportive of the project. They believe that it will mean the end of their Club. That is not the case and is 100% not what we want.
Putting the record straight… objections and statements from BFC
In recent weeks, the Directors of Berkhamsted FC have made several public statements about the project which are misleading, misinformed or fundamentally incorrect and which have raised concern among the wider community. We wish to allay the concerns that have been raised and put the record straight.
Various statements made by Berkhamsted FC are listed below with our response:
“We don’t want to play on a plastic pitch. Plastic pitches cause more injuries”
“Plastic pitch” is a phrase that was last heard of in the 1990’s. Since then, the technology used in artificial grass pitches has moved ahead significantly. Recent studies have shown that third and fourth generation artificial pitches are no more likely to cause injury than grass pitches. However, there is no clear evidence one way or the other.
As noted above, there are many examples of other non-league clubs who have seen the benefits of artificial grass pitches and the creation of a community stadiums. Next season, BFC will be playing away games in a league where several forward-thinking clubs have adopted 3G pitches. In adverse weather conditions, games are more likely to be played on the agreed fixture date, rather than cancelled and rescheduled.
“an increased risk of Berkhamsted’s sportsmen getting cancer”
BFC have highlighted recent media coverage of the concerns raised about the use of rubber crumb on artificial pitches. Current FA, Sport England and FIFA guidance and an EU funded research project does not support the BFC view: See:
It is also worth stating that an artificial grass pitch established at Broadwater would take advantage of the latest developments in pitch technology. Currently, Ware FC are adopting a technology for their new pitch that does not utilise rubber crumb. The development will take account of recommendations on the most appropriate and safe technology to be used for artificial grass pitches.
“a facility linked relegation of three divisions for our first team (or the club having to quit Berkhamsted)”
A new stadium development will of course meet the required criteria to enable BFC to play at their desired level. It would make no sense at all to downgrade the stadium. It is our clear intention to improve the current stadium and provide BFC with a facility that they can be proud of.
“an end to the Pooh Corner nursery and after school clubs using Broadwater”
Berkhamsted Raiders have not said that this is the intention.
“an end to the popular Comrades car park arrangement”
Berkhamsted Raiders have not said that this is the intention.
“the closure of the adjoining indoor tennis centre”
The land on which the tennis centre sits is owned by the Berkhamsted Lawn Tennis and Squash Rackets Club. We have an excellent relationship with the Club. It is ridiculous to suggest that the indoor tennis centre would be knocked down.
“It’s a Raiders takeover and the end of BFC”
See the information provided above. The new facility will not be run by Raiders, but by a Community Sports Trust. Raiders is in the fortunate position of being able to raise a large sum of money to make this project a reality. It is a community project that ensures the long-term future of BFC. We are asking BFC to acknowledge the benefits to the wider sports community, open up the facility to wider use when it is not used for senior football and help to make this project a success.
“The project will not receive planning approval”
We are not planning experts. Neither are the Directors of BFC. There are of course planning issues associated with any new development. Broadwater is in an area of the town that is dedicated to sporting use. There are no planning restrictions on extended use of the current stadium. A new stadium would of course aim to increase usage of an under used facility. Re-development of an existing sports facility obviously faces fewer planning issues than a new facility which is built on a greenfield site. Ultimately, it will be a decision for the Dacorum BC Planning Department.
Current status of the project and planning issues
The Football Association (FA) have established an organisation called the Football Foundation (FF) The FF is the largest sports charity in the UK funded by the Premier League, The FA and Government (via Sport England). It funds the development of new and refurbished grassroots sports facilities improving the quality and experience of playing sport at the grassroots level to sustain and increase participation and improve general skills levels. To successfully receive funding from the FF each applicant needs to comply to a framework agreement. This we have done, and the project involves Labo Sports who are an approved supplier to the FF.
Using Labo Sports expertise, we have applied to Dacorum Planning for Pre Planning Advice in order that we will be able to work through any possible planning issues formally with the planning authorities. This process commenced in July 2018 and we should know the results by early September.
Once we have determined the nature of any potential planning challenges, we will utilise Labo Sports experience to provide technical solutions and then, all being well, submit a full planning application.
We have created a project team headed by Steve Bird, a Raiders Trustee and long-term parent. If you have any views, comments or suggestions on the project, speak to Steve, Keith Pollard, Club Chairman or Andy Grindrod, the Football Committee Chairman, or one of our Trustees or Committee members.