It's all kicking off over plans for 'community stadium' at Berkhamsted FC

There's contention over whether Broadwater's grass pitch should be replaced with 3G as part of a community stadium initiative
There's contention over whether Broadwater's grass pitch should be replaced with 3G as part of a community stadium initiative

A long-standing football club fears it could be turfed out of its home if plans for a ‘community stadium’ go ahead.

Berkhamsted Football Club, known as the Comrades, are opposed to a proposed scheme from neighbours Berkhamsted Raiders to redevelop Broadwater and its facilities – including replacing the grass pitch with an artificial 3G surface.

The town’s senior team – which replaced the original Berkhamsted Town FC when it dissolved in 2009 – has played at Broadwater for 99 years, and fears if the plans go through it would lead to an uncertain future.

It's all a far cry from on the field, where things are going so well with the Comrades challenging for promotion out of the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division.

But the Raiders, who play at the new astoturf Paul Beard Centre at Ashlyns School, say that a community stadium would represent ‘a unique opportunity for the town by bringing together youth and senior football, alongside other sports’.

However, Comrades chairman Steve Davis told the Gazette: “We feel that the site isn’t suitable for this project.

“We want to keep the grass pitch not only for the enjoyment of people watching, but also the safety of our players.”

The Broadwater site is leased to the football club from the owners, the Berkhamsted Sports Grounds Charitable Association (BSGCA).

The Raiders say that any new Community Stadium would be managed by a charitable community trust involving representatives from BSGCA, the community and from the sports clubs that would use the clubhouse facilities and pitch.

These would include both Berkhamsted FC and the Raiders, and potentially the town’s Cycling Club – which the Raiders say, are looking for a home and are ‘keen to be involved’.

The Raiders also acknowledged that the Comrades were opposed and felt they ‘may lose their independence’.

Raiders chairman Keith Pollard said: “We don’t want to see Berkhamsted Football Club leave, and we don’t intend to run senior football ourselves.

“We would like them to be involved, but we do have different philosophies on this.

“We think it would offer a secure future for a club that dissolved only nine years ago.The community stadium project is a model that has worked at many other similar clubs.”

Although no drawings are on the table yet, Raiders trustees have sanctioned expenditure to move the project forward to an outline planning stage over the next few weeks.

But should those plans ever reach the form of a planning application, they are unlikely to have the backing of Steve Davis.

He added: “We have built ourselves back up over the last 10 years. Broadwater is our home, and to me it’s the Raiders wanting to take our home.”