Ecclesall Rangers Junior Football Club ( Sheffield ). Home Ground Under Threat.

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I write to you as the Chairman and founder of Ecclesall Rangers Junior Football Club.

As a club we have a long association with  Bannerdale Playing Fields. The first Ecclesall Rangers team played on the site, which is now Mercia School, in 1992. This was our home ground until the end of the season 2017 when we lost the pitches,  due to the building of the new school.

Ecclesall Rangers was built on the belief that football is for all, regardless of ability or difference and should be enjoyed in a safe, positive and inclusive environment where all those involved play their part. We are passionate about the benefits of grass roots football and take the responsibility of our role as advocates for the game and organisers of a junior football club seriously.

We are very lucky to have a dedicated team of F.A. qualified coaches, managers and volunteer supporters,  all holding the necessary CRB checks and the completion of appropriate Child Protection training . Parents play a massive part in supporting the club financially,  through subs’ and imaginative fund-raising. We have 235-250 children playing football, in 23 teams, from nursery teams for U7s to U18s. These children are not just from the local district; we are inclusive not exclusive. I am proud to say that our players come from far and wide, across the city.

We strive to give all these players more opportunities and greater experiences to help them progress and develop, both on and off the pitch and are absolutely committed to providing a safe and positive football environment  where team spirit, respect for each other and an understanding that we are all responsible for our actions can thrive. As a Club, we strongly support the F.A. Respect Programme.

We aim to ensure that every child who joins us can play on a pitch which is free from danger and as fit for play as we can possibly make it. Primarily,  like hundreds of junior clubs, we are in it for grass roots football to flourish. Without junior clubs, where would the next batch of professional footballers come from?

We work just as hard as the Academies,  without the same resources. The bottom line is that until we have adequate funding and are given access to resources,  we are selling our children short and we are unable to achieve our aim. Our desire is to be able to look to the bigger picture and plan for the years ahead and not season, by season. I know that this will resonate with a lot of other junior clubs.

We are fully aware that money is not a finite resource. In our club, we already have the necessary passion, dedication and  commitment - in bucket loads. We witness this, every week in the tireless work of our volunteer managers, coaches and parents - so many wonderful people.

All we are asking for is a level of funding that enables our grassroots football club to plan for our future and have the facilities which we can all be proud of. Money is not the only requirement, I realise that. As a club, we work to be forward thinking. Our dream is to be more inclusive i.e. to have girls football teams and  young people with disabilities. That would be wonderful.

Presently, we do not have the sensitivity of changing facilities, needed by female players, in my opinion. However, we recently saw one of our female players achieve success by signing for Manchester City.  

To accommodate young players with disabilities,  we need the training and the surfaces that match the need of the disability.

Extra funding would make all of this possible.

We ask for  your support to help us to achieve our aim    

We are adamant that everyone involved in Ecclesall Rangers - coaches, managers, Chairmen, Welfare Officers and parents - has a duty to make sure that our young players look forward to games with the same excitement week in, week out. For this ethos to exist we need safeguarding - i.e. the safest possible conditions  to banish any form of harm or injury.

This is an impassioned letter about safety. Safeguarding, in all its aspects, is crucial, absolutely crucial.

One aspect of Safeguarding is pitch safety.  A way to achieve this, and ensure the pitches are danger free and player friendly,  is to install fencing.

Fences would free pitches from:-

totally unacceptable acts of dog fouling with its added danger of toxocariasis (which leads to blindness)

litter - I have very often picked up pieces of broken bottles and,  unbelievably, the necks of bottles, seemingly stuck deliberately into mud with jagged edge uppermost

general acts of littering -  rotting food, half eaten sandwiches, wrappers, cartons, tissues, wipes, etc. - the list is endless.

quad-bike riding, scramblers and other cycling activities which destroy the surface of the pitch

static goals wrecked,  mobile goals wrecked or stolen

bonfires and their aftermath

gate-locks smashed, destroyed or blocked  with super glue

casual and  destructive use of the pitches by reckless people, interested only in  causing havoc

cars, randomly parked and then surrounded by small gangs of youths who shout aggressively and obscenely, when asked to move on.

All the pitches that we have played on,  in away matches, that are well-maintained are those with fencing.  Without secure fencing so much time has to be taken to scour the pitches for broken glass and dog fouling, before training and playing can begin.

Secure fencing prevents abuse of the site and without it changing facilities, playing surface, equipment lock-ups are all vulnerable to vandalism, anti- social behaviour and undesirable conduct.

We have been hearing promises of funding, from different parties, for so many years. The time is ripe for action. Funding would enable the dreams of  secured and danger free pitches to very quickly become reality. Funding would mean a more inclusive club with more places for players. Funding would mean that good pitches stand alongside of, and complement,  the wonderful new school, which is so near to completion. Ecclesall Rangers would have its old home ground back and we could welcome new members, from Mercia School, with open arms.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Windle, BEM.

Chairman and Welfare Officer, Ecclesall Rangers Junior Football Club.