A booming children’s grassroots football club in Market Harborough has got it all to play for after moving a major step closer to taking control of their own destiny.
The people who run Borough Alliance Junior Football Club said they are “thrilled” after holding “very positive talks” with Harborough District Council about their immediate future.
The thriving sports set-up, which boasts over 400 young players aged from 4-18, has been battling to take over the lease at its Symington’s Recreation Ground base, off St Mary’s Road, from the local authority for the last seven years.
And now the club, a genuine local community success story, hopes it’s finally made a decisive breakthrough after holding high-level discussions with council officers.
Club chairman Mick Draper told the Harborough Mail: “We have held some very positive meetings with the council – and now it’s all to play for to use a well-known football expression!
“We are very grateful to the council for their help and support as we try to do the best for our fantastic club.
“Now we hope to be given the lease for the mutual benefit of both ourselves at Borough Alliance FC and Welland Valley Archery Club – as they are also based here.”
Founded in 2003, the club, which has three girls’ teams and is proud of its inclusivity, has gone from strength to strength – attracting children and teenagers from all over Market Harborough.
But the model community outfit are desperate to build a new state-of-the-art clubhouse, as well as upgrading other facilities, because the current ageing building is shabby and poorly equipped.
“We operate to very high standards here and have won a lot of recognition within the game over the years.
“But we do need to make progress and create a new clubhouse sooner rather than later,” said Mick, whose wife and daughter also help out while his son stars for the Under-12s side.
“In the long term we’d like to explore all possibilities and all routes as we develop our club and take it upwards and onwards.
“We are growing and becoming more popular all the time.
“Borough Alliance is a proper family-run club, deeply rooted in the community of Market Harborough, and we are very proud of that.”
Coaches - and other volunteers - are also being pressed into action to do more than hone kids’ football skills.
They are forced to pick up drugs paraphernalia, used condoms, broken glass and hippy crack cannisters scattered across their pitches before hundreds of children can safely train on Saturday mornings.
“It’s not very good but that’s what we have to do – as well as cleaning up dog dirt as well.
“We’d simply appeal to everyone to appreciate that our children play football on these fields,” said Mick.
“So please don’t dump anything on there which will endanger their health and safety – they have to come first and always will do.
“We are now really excited about welcoming back all our players to train again from Monday March 29.
“The Covid lockdown has gone on for so long now.
“Playing football – all sorts of sport – is so important for children’s mental well-being as well as for their physical health.
“We’ll be kicking off Sunday football again from Sunday April 11.
“We have 33 highly-qualified FA coaches backed up by about 100 volunteers who cannot wait to kickstart our season,” insisted Mick, the club’s chairman since 2018.
“And there is no better feeling or emotion that seeing the dazzling smile on an excited child’s face after they’ve just scored a goal.
“It’s priceless and it makes all we do here all worthwhile!”
A Harborough council spokesman told the Mail: “Symington’s Recreation Ground is used by both the Borough Alliance FC and the Welland Valley Archery Club.
“We are currently in discussions with the football club about potential future options around the lease on the Symington’s Rec.
“We will continue to work with them moving forward to seek to identify all the options available to us.
“We are also considering the archery club in any decisions we make about the lease and the usage of the facility.”
He added: “With the recreation ground being a well-used public space, the club has raised some issues regarding litter which we will continue to address through our normal enforcement processes and through education campaigns moving forward.
“Grassroots sport is important and we will continue to try to support Borough Alliance FC in their ambitions for the club.
“With this in mind, we are encouraging the club to continue dialogue with us with respect to any concerns they have relating to the site and their future plans.”