0 Frenford Sports Club 'cock-a-hoop' with Spurs involvement

Frenford5The fortunes of a long-established community sports club have been transformed, thanks to a healthy investment from a London borough council and the commitment of a top-flight professional football club.

Now, youngsters are rubbing shoulders with the future stars of one of the biggest names in football, whose turfcare team are also taking care of business with the playing surfaces.

The future of Frenford Clubs hung in the balance in 2009, when the news was announced, by the London Borough of Redbridge, that plans would get the green light to build a new academy school - the Isaac Newton Academy - on the site of its home base at Cricklefields, Seven Kings, in Ilford.

The club had a 99-year original lease on the land with twelve years still to run, which the council had previously allocated a three-year licence to. If the school's plans would not allow Frenford to remain on site, a solution would have to be sought to find a new home for the 82-year old community sports body.

The youth and sports club has had a long and fruitful existence since it was established in 1928, by a young man called Jack Carter, who started the ball rolling when he asked for a room in a Quaker's meeting house and first spoke of his desire to give local children a safe haven to play regularly.

Little did the community-minded Carter know that his aspirations were to come to fruition and create, what is now, a 19-acre youth club eight decades later.

Yet, matters could have turned out so differently if the club had not been forced to move from their home base. Club chairman and trustee, Graham Sandy MBE, who has been associated with the club for fifty-two years, and honoured for his work with it, was one of the men who led negotiations with Redbridge council to settle the future of Frenford Clubs.

Frenford4"We have always been keen to work with the council, and not against them, if it's for the good of the community," Graham stresses. "Yet the building of the new school would leave us without a home, so a resolution had to be sought."

The council decided to finance the relocation of the club, and a suitable site was sourced nearby in The Drive, Ilford, and the relocation rubber stamped when Redbridge Council, who paid for the new £6.2m development, announced a date to build the academy school.

Frenford agreed the move from its home at Cricklefields - whilst retaining its second site at their 19-acre Oakfields premises in Barkingside - to the new location; a move that meant it could bring all its activities on to one site.

The relocation proved to be a lucky break for the club, who were in need of updating their tired facility but had little funds to do so, recalls Graham.

"At Cricklefields, we had only a small sports hall for five-a-side football and indoor activities, but it was in real need of a facelift."

Frenford Youth Centre 13"The move enabled us to get brand new, state-of-the-art facilities that would offer huge long-term value to our members and allow us to offer a greater service to more children."

The new pavilion forms the centrepiece of the council-funded development and is named after founder, Jack Carter. Redbridge Mayor, Councillor Jim O'Shea, unveiled a plaque recording the event, and Reverend Kester, Chaplain to Frenford, also conducted a blessing of the building.

The new 2,200m2 headquarters and sports facility is more than double the original size and now includes an indoor gym, dance studio, function room, clubroom and sports hall for basketball, netball, badminton and indoor cricket. Outside, will be cricket nets, two multi-use games areas, two senior football pitches, two cricket squares, two rugby pitches and a large car park.

The Jack Carter pavilion at the Oakfields site has been renamed the Oakfield Pavilion, allowing the club to retain its tradition of always naming the headquarters after their founder.

Oakfields playing fields were first acquired in 1998, following the decision to find a new ground that would allow Frenford to accommodate the two sports that had always been at its core - football, with five senior men's teams and a host of juniors, and cricket, which hosts County Premier League matches.

The site was secured through the London Borough of Redbridge, but facilities didn't cater for the number of members, so the club applied for a National Lottery grant for the construction of a new pavilion and changing rooms - an application that was successful to the tune of £750,000 funding.

The money was partly acquired with the help of London Youth and the Essex Association of Boys and Girls Clubs (whose chief executive is chairman of the management committee at Frenford, and once a boy member), both bodies that Graham has linked closely with over his years at the club.

Frenford3"As an organisation that prides itself on promoting youth sport and activity, it's always been our desire to work alongside those that share a common goal. Both of these have been instrumental in us sourcing grants through the National Lottery, the Variety Club and some through the local authority," he explains.

The fortunes of the Frenford Clubs were given another massive boost following completion of the relocation to their new home in Ilford, with the news that Premiership club, Tottenham Hotspur FC, who were deep into the development of a new training ground at Bull's Cross, Enfield, were scouting for an appropriate site to house their academy side until the completion of the new training base in 2012.

"We heard they were looking for somewhere that not only fitted their locality, but also one that would offer the scope of facilities for the parents of their academy players," explains Graham.

"Spurs got in touch with us when they saw that we were one of the few clubs that could offer what they wanted, and close by the ground. Our new development, with its modern pavilion, and the fact that we had the Oakfields ground, was what pushed the deal through, so we signed an agreement for two years, allowing them to use both sites as interim training facilities."

The Spurs deal with Frenford Clubs means they will host their eight to 16-year-old Youth Academy players at the Oakfields ground for two seasons, ahead of moving to their new multi-million pound training centre.

Frenford's new development at The Drive was an important element in the deal, Graham stresses, with Spurs impressed with the quality of provision on offer, one that dovetailed with their needs.
FrenfordTeam
The new Jack Carter pavilion was one of the main attractions for the club and will play host to the Academy's weekend and holiday training and playing activities.

"The Youth Academy activity for our younger age groups had previously taken place at the Academy pavilion at Myddleton House, however this site had become unusable whilst being integrated into the development of our new scheme," adds Tottenham Hotspur academy manager, John McDermott.

For Spurs, the search had been a long process and had proved a fruitless one, until the club got wind of the Frenford plans. "We had visited over thirty potential sites in North London to find an interim facility that met our needs," John continues. "Frenford have a fantastic pavilion that ticked all the boxes. Ultimately, we are all delighted that we have been able to agree this partnership with Frenford Clubs and can contribute to their charitable foundation with a considerable bulk of their groundcare, which we hope will put them in good stead once we leave."

Under the agreement, the Spurs grounds staff, headed up by award-winning grounds manager, Darren Baldwin, have committed to taking over full control of the two senior pitches at Oakfields to bring them up to the standards required by a professional football club.

PaulJonesManaging the Oakfields pitches on a day to day basis is Paul Jones, Spurs head groundsman since 2006. "This is an interim site, being used as the under-8s to under-16s Academy training facility until Bulls Cross opens later in 2012," Paul explains. "We are running quite an extensive maintenance programme - cutting three times a week and line marking twice a week. The limiting factor is irrigation though. We are governed by the weather here. The site only has two stand pipes and two half-inch diameter hose pipes to hand and, if the ground dries out, we have problems."

The Spurs grounds maintenance staff look after two full-size pitches, three 60m by 40m junior pitches and a 90m by 50m intermediate pitch, also cutting the cricket outfields.

Limited resources have meant that the site had seen little in the way of feeding or seeding until Spurs rented the site. However, the maintenance programme started inauspiciously. "We've learned our lesson from last year," Paul continues, "when we overseeded during the excessively dry spell during June and July. We seeded and fed everything, but only got a 50% take of seed. It was very difficult. This year, we waited until the dry period ended and the ground gained moisture before overseeding."

Paul uses four varieties of 100% ryegrass for the task, sourced from several suppliers, and applies 200-300kg of seed per pitch, following a pre-seed feed of 10:15:10 fertiliser. "We apply three feeds a year to the whole site, using around 300 bags at £20 a bag. Last year, we seeded twice, using about 1,000kg at £60 a bag. That's quite a commitment, and we have one to two groundsmen working here three times a week. The line marking alone covers several miles - we double mark twice weekly."

Added to that, for every visit, tractors and the Ransomes Jacobsen LS3400 five-unit mowers are moved by trailer to and from the club's Chigwell site some 2.5 miles away.

"This is an open park site surrounded by housing - playing fields, basically, where anybody can come in to ride motor bikes, kick a ball around and leave litter," adds Paul.

"Our job is also to keep the site as free of bottles, glass and used syringes as we can. I think we do as much as we can, given the constraints. We have to move the machinery to and from the ground, as site security is so limited."
Frenford6
The partnership will also allow Frenford to maintain the cricket arm of their organisation, until the wickets at their new development are bedded in and ready to use.
Whilst the eight changing rooms at the Jack Carter pavilion had been installed new by the council, when Spurs put pen to paper there was a desire, on their part, to really make it their home for the next two years, so were keen to make a few amendments.

These included redesigning the changing facilities with Spurs branding, and a new fully kitted out physiotherapy room, which will remain once they leave.

"In the beginning, Spurs weren't so much interested in the quality of our sports grounds, as they knew they could bring them up to the standards they wanted," explains Graham.

"What really sealed the deal was the new pavilion, our new function room and our on-site catering facilities. Surprisingly though, it was the large car park that I feel gave us an edge over others. It's a real luxury, for us and them to have, as it means we are never short of space, and it allows Spurs the room they need to host visiting sides, parents of players and the volume of cars that such activity brings with it."

"The value of having Spurs here for two years will be huge for us, from both a groundcare point of view and the fact that our philosophy has always been to encourage youth sport - a policy that ties in with their Academy development."

"We have five senior teams that play on the weekend at Oakfields, which means there will have to be an element of reorganising our schedule to fit in with their needs, but the positives of the arrangements far outweigh any negatives, especially the financial benefits."

If any clashes do occur, Frenford has to liaise with Redbridge council to find an alternative council pitch, yet Graham insists that such an occurrence is likely to be rare.

The two cricket squares and the senior pitches had, before the move, been the responsibility of Frenford's sole groundsman, Peter Sherwood, who joined the club in 1998 when they moved to the Oakfields.

Having the Spurs team on hand will now mean that Peter can, for the next two years, devote his full attention to the cricket aspect.

"Peter had a lot on his plate before, yet always delivered a top quality surface for match day," Graham adds. "With the football side now taken care of, he will be able focus his attentions on getting the cricket provision ready for the season, and to complete the further two wickets at our new home - so he'll be kept very busy."

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