Plans to bring community football back to one of the oldest grounds in Sussex have taken a big step forward after a £50,000 cash injection by Adur District Council.
The Russell Martin Foundation (RMF), a Southwick-based not-for-profit organisation which uses the power of football to help change people’s lives, was granted a 25-year lease for Old Barn Way in Southwick last year.
The charity, which is backed by the Sussex-born former Norwich City and Rangers player and current Swansea City manager, is working with the local authority to refurbish the entire site, transforming the ground into a community football hub, which promotes health, wellbeing and education in the area.
To help kickstart the project, the Council has this week released £50,000 of Section 106 funding to the charity to carry out urgent safety works to the facility. This will support the return of youth and community football in the short term.
Longer term, RMF wants to install a sustainable cork based 3G pitch which will enable the ground to be used regularly all year round regardless of the weather and seek to upgrade facilities at the site to create a modern and fit for purpose community football hub.
Cllr Emma Evans, Adur District Council’s Executive Member for Environment, said: “I’m pleased we are able to support the Russell Martin Foundation with this cash injection which will get the ball rolling in terms of carrying out urgent works to what is a valuable community facility.
“The charity’s long term plans are extremely exciting - but in order to get there, the ground needs to become operational. We remain supportive and committed to helping it get there and to seeing football of all levels return to Old Barn Way.”
The Council ended the agreement with the former leaseholder at Old Barn Way in 2019 due to significant mismanagement issues and safety concerns.
RMF had initially hoped to be able to carry out urgent safety works in time for the ground to be back in use by September.
But survey works have revealed concerns over asbestos and water damage to the clubhouse while the perimeter wall and fence needs to be repaired and reinstalled.
Alan Sanders Chief Executive, Russell Martin Foundation said: “We welcome this support from Adur District Council as we embark on the next stage of bringing Old Barn Way back into use and transforming it into one of the best community football hubs in Sussex.
“This funding will enable vital work to be done so that we can deliver some of our youth and community football programme at the site and we look forward to announcing details of the next stage of our exciting plans in the New Year.”