Letter of support for NCFG's stadium plans from Newbury Ladies Manager Sue Hewett, read out at the Newbury Town Council Planning & Highways meeting 10/09/18:
Introduction to Newbury Ladies FC
1. Firstly, I would like to thank you for having me here today and for allowing me to have a couple of minutes of your time to address you.
2. My name is Sue Hewett and I am the First Team Manager of Newbury Ladies Football Club.
3. This is something that I have been doing for the last 7 years and before that, I was a player for Newbury Ladies for the previous 7 years.
4. Our football club is a successful, long established team. We’ve been in existence since 2003.
5. Our First Team plays at a high level in the Women’s game, against teams like Southampton and AFC Bournemouth – we also compete every year in the Women’s F.A. Cup.
6. We currently run 2 adult female teams, with participation starting at the age of 16.
7. We currently have a total of 38 players.
8. We could easily run more teams for both women and girls – in fact we would love to expand and start teams for girls in the younger age groups under the Newbury Ladies Football Club umbrella – but a lack of good facilities prevents this.
9. The biggest drop-out rates for Youth Football is by 16-18 year olds – and this is a really vulnerable age group.
10. Our Ladies teams currently play our home matches on the Donnington Recreation Ground, which is good – BUT we can’t train there in the winter evenings, as there are no floodlights – and in the poorer weather conditions in the winter we do find that games get called off and postponed – because it has only one grass pitch.
11. Also, we’re not allowed to play our FA Cup games at Donnington because we need a larger pitch – it needs to be full size – the pitch dimensions required in order to enter the FA Cup competition must be a minimum of 100 metres in length and 64 metres wide – and the pitch at Donnington is 10 metres too short, otherwise we’d be extending into the cricket square, which we can’t do.
12. So, as a Football Club, we’ve had to be very nomadic when it comes to the FA Cup. We’ve had some really terrific Cup ties in recent seasons, but sadly we can’t play those matches at Donnington – nor in the actual town of Newbury that we are representing.
13. This is such a shame for our players because we are playing in a national high profile competition, such as the FA Cup, which has its final at Wembley and yet we cannot currently play those important games in Newbury.
14. If we are given a home tie in this season’s FA Cup then we will travel to Lambourn Football Club, who are very kindly allowing us to play there.
15. This problem of finding a suitable pitch and facilities will get worse for us if we are fortunate enough to be promoted in the future, as higher leagues require better facilities – the current Faraday Road ground has these – it has for example the good standard changing rooms, adequate showers, a covered area for supporters, etc.
16. And when it comes to midweek evening training in the winter months, we had been able to hire just a third of a pitch at Park House School for the last 2 seasons, but this slot hasn’t been made available to us for the coming season – so currently we haven’t been able to secure a winter training venue – this is a real headache for us – in fact it’s a real worry for me personally – as without proper training during the week, our players won’t be able to keep improving as they have been.
17. The problem is, there is a real shortage of quality pitches in the area generally – but especially 3G pitches for training and playing matches.
18. So why is 3G so important?
19. The Football Association conducted a recent survey of West Berkshire and it highlighted that the area was actually 4 full size 3G pitches short to meet the demand of the West Berks community.
20. A 3G pitch is an artificial pitch that can be used over 10 times more a week than a grass pitch.
21. Third generation or 3G artificial grass pitches are recognised as durable, safe, year-round playing surfaces, able to withstand intensive use and all kinds of weather.
22. They mean more people can benefit from all the associated positive social and health impacts of participating in regular physical activity.
23. The FA extol the benefits of 3G for wider use in the grassroots football community – their Report says: “They are a very useful asset and capable of delivering 50 plus hours per week as compared to a natural turf pitch which can deliver perhaps five hours per week.
24. The FA chairman has vowed to deliver a “radical new approach” to grassroots football that would reverse years of neglect of shabby, waterlogged municipal facilities by investing heavily in new 3G pitches and overhauling its approach to youth coaching.
25. Newbury is home to over 45,000 people and it is set to grow by about 6,000 over the next 10 years.
26. All of the evidence concludes that sporting facilities are indisputably essential to maintaining a healthy community.
27. So, what we need – is the same type of facilities as the current Faraday Road Ground has – but a 3G pitch – not grass.
28. Thank you again for your time this evening.