Mark the day, Saturday 26th October 2019. The day when eight of the eleven fixtures in the National League North were postponed due to heavy rainfall across the UK, and Spennymoor Town, playing at The Brewery Field, wasn’t one of them.
A year ago, with the surface clearly suffering from underlying issues that had reared their heads on multiple occasions since promotion, the game against Gloucester would have been in severe doubt. A year later, and with the best surface in the division at our disposal, there wasn’t even a hint of a pitch inspection.
It has been a long road for The Brewery Field pitch. Once the centre of social media meltdowns, it is now the best surface in the National League North. In fact, it probably stands a good chance of outperforming the majority of pitches in the National League too. The strides taken have been seismic, but it’s a process that hasn’t happened overnight. Plans were set in motion in October 2018 with the aim of having a state of the art pitch in place by the start of the 2019/20 season.
Managing Director Tony Wilson was at the heart of the project: “The process started over a year ago when we filled in a large number of forms and planning permission applications, as well as investigating funding from the Football Foundation. We sat down and spoke with contractors, went through what we wanted to do and the processes we needed to follow in order to achieve our end goal.
It is important that investment makes its way to lower league clubs, and the new pitch at Spennymoor Town is a great example of what this funding can do.”
“We wanted to start digging up soil straight after our final home game of the 2018/19 season, which proved to be Bradford (Park Avenue) in the Play-Off Eliminator in early May. All of the hard work in applying for those grants and permissions had paid off, and when the pitch disappeared, it was a case of hoping it worked in time.
“Where we are now is an incredible transformation to where it was a year ago.”
Wilson is not wrong. A year ago Moors lost two games in the month of December against Kidderminster and Boston United. In fairness, other clubs such as Ashton United, Curzon Ashton and Southport also suffered on the first occasion, but constant rainfall meant Moors’ clash against Boston United on December 22nd was the only game off that day.
The arrival of Mark Sleightholme following the conclusion of the 2018/19 season was imperative. For the first time, Moors boasted a full-time groundsman with Premier League experience. Having previously worked at Sunderland AFC, Mark had dealt with large scale projects in his career. However, The Brewery Field surface was a task he knew would be challenging.
Sleightholme said: “The pitch needed a lot of work after last season and the amount of water that was taken on, plus the amount of games that were played on it. Having worked at Sunderland before, it was clear that they did more to their pitch, but at the same time it was on the same sort of scale. Once the drainage and sprinklers went in, I had to make sure the seed was growing properly and make sure I was putting the right chemicals and fertiliser on.”
Of course, this entire project wouldn’t have been possible without the funding from the Football Foundation. The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund provides grants for building or refurbishing grassroots facilities, such as changing pavilions and playing surfaces for community benefit.
It is focused on supporting the development of new or refurbished local football facilities and improving the experience of playing the national game at the lowest levels. The types of facilities they provide funds for include grass pitches, drainage and improvements. The Brewery Field comfortably fell into that category.
Peter McCormick OBE, Chairman of the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, said: “It is great to hear that a grant from the Premier League, through the FSIF, is going to help Spennymoor Town FC improve the spectator facilities at The Brewery Field.
“Through the FSIF, the Premier League is committed to improving the standard of infrastructure at all levels of the game. It is important that investment makes its way to lower league clubs, and the new pitch at Spennymoor Town is a great example of what this funding can do.”
Where we are now is an incredible transformation to where it was a year ago.”
The club is also thankful for the help of Abi Smith from GEM Finance, who played a major role in sorting through endless amounts of application forms and ultimately deciding what the club could and couldn’t apply for. Her efforts played a key part in the progress and speed of the entire transformation.
After the installation of the state of the art surface, the next stage was to add an improved perimeter fence around the pitch. The club contacted Net World Sports, a supplier of sporting equipment based in Wrexham, to find the most suitable solution for The Brewery Field.
“At Net World Sports we specialise in all aspects of football equipment ranging from training and match day supplies to ground equipment; so when Tony Wilson contacted one of our sales representatives to enquire about crowd barriers we were delighted to offer some solutions.
“Jack Davies worked with Tony to understand what the club was hoping to achieve and from there was able to recommend our ‘Premier Football Pitch Barrier System’ which can be customised to meet clubs’ exact requirements – perfect for clubs looking for a professional finish.
“From the initial quotation right through to ensuring the club were happy with the end result, working with Tony and Spennymoor Town as a club was a great experience and we’re pleased to say that the finished product looks fantastic at The Brewery Field.
“To this day Jack remains in contact with Tony and we’d be delighted to assist the club with any future equipment requirements.”
With the perimeter fence ordered, the next step was to get it installed. That job was taken on by Proteq Fencing, a local company based in Sacriston, Durham. Their expertise and professional approach saw a quick turnaround, and before we knew it, our pitch and surrounding area was almost there.
So, we return to late October 2019 at The Brewery Field. No pitch inspection, no standing water and no issues after a week of torrential rain across the country. If you had told any Spennymoor fan that a year ago, they would be shaking their head in disbelief.
WITH THANKS TO
Proteq Fencing – https://proteqfencing.co.uk/about-us/
Football Foundation – https://www.footballfoundation.org.uk
Net World Sports – https://www.networldsports.co.uk
GEM Finance – https://www.gemfinance.co.uk