Campaign to bring football back home to Harpenden

HARPENDEN Rovers Football Club’s first team is being forced to play premier division home games 20 miles away in Barnet because its local facilities do not meet Herts County Premier standards.

The club, formed in 1928, is currently in “friendly negotiations” with Harpenden Town Council to bring their home ground at Acres Corner on Harpenden Common up to premier standards, and bring the first team back to Harpenden.

There are fears that failure to bring the facilities up to scratch will mean demotion for the first team, as an agreement to share Hadley FC’s ground in Barnet has only been granted on a temporary basis.

James Nicholls, reserve team manager for the club, said: “Demotion would potentially have a severe effect on the number of players at Rovers as players may leave to find premiership football elsewhere. The first team have also had an excellent start to the season and currently lay second place in the Herts County Senior Premier League.”

He attended a recent environment committee meeting to explain to councillors how the club could maintain the essential beauty of Harpenden Common as improvements were relatively minor and all of the requirements to upgrade the pitch were removable after the game.

Councillors admitted they did not enjoy the fact that their local club was now having to play home games at Hadley FC and confessed they had been “unaware” that it was a consequence of having facilities that failed to meet Premier League standards.

Chairman Cllr Bert Pawle said: “It’s the price of success. It’s our local Rovers Football Club, so we try to be supportive.”

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James said several standards need to be met to bring footballback to Harpenden: “The pitch needs to have railing around three sides during the game; it is also required to have a covered viewing area for at least 20 spectators, and a players’ walkway to the pitch.

“The committee at Harpenden Rovers FC believe this is very achievable whilst maintaining the Common’s natural beauty much like the golf and cricket clubs have achieved with similar improvement projects.”

Councillors will continue discussions with club officials and plan a site visit to see a demonstration of the demountables.

James said: “Over the past four years Rovers’ first team has had great success winning Aspley Senior Cup and the Watford Peace Memorial Hospital Cup, and gaining entry to the Herts County Senior Division One.

“Due to the great success of the players and the management team the first Team gained promotion to the premior division this season. Harpenden Rovers FC has an excellent set up throughout the club with experienced coaches and a hard-working committee which includes Fred Day, who has been with the club since 1956, and there is a real sense of community spirit throughout the club.”

The club currently runs four Saturday sides - two in the Herts County and two in West Herts, and a Sunday Vets Team. It also has in excess of 130 affiliated members drawing from Harpenden, surrounding villages and local schools.