Barton Rovers are one of this season’s recipients of the Buildbase £100k Transfer Deal.
The Southern Central side have been awarded a £25,000 product bursary, which includes building, electrical and hire products to help renovate their club facilities.
The grant was eligible to any club who entered the 2019-20 Buildbase FA Trophy or FA Vase, with six shortlisted teams pitching for the funds at Wembley Stadium in December.
And Bedfordshire-based Barton, and Eastern Counties League Premier Division side Stowmarket Town, were chosen by our specialist panel of FA and Buildbase judges.
The funds are particularly welcome for Barton, who were Vase runners-up in 1977-78 with ex-Leeds United manager Kevin Blackwell as their goalkeeper.The club’s 4000-capacity Sharpenhoe Road stadium was severely damaged by Storm Doris in 2018 and the £25,000 will now help recoup costs from that disaster.
“We're a small community-run club and this money will go a very long way,” says chairman Darren Whiley.
“I don’t think there's a single person in our village who won’t benefit in some way because virtually all of the 5000-population here use the club in some capacity.
“Back in February 2018 the stadium was severely damaged by Storm Doris. A floodlight pylon blew completely over, damaging both dugouts and part of the press gantry.
"We had to spend a lot of money, time and energy cleaning up the debris because we were midway through the season. We had no time to fund raise or recoup costs because we had to fix everything quickly in order to carry on with the football.
“That damage came off the back on a pretty unlucky 2017 too. We lost about £9000 in an armed robbery at our clubhouse which took place after a darts tournament. Three masked men held club staff at gunpoint and raided the kitty.
"So it’s nice to enter 2020 with more positive news. We'll be spending the grant on a variety of things that benefit both our first team and grassroots football.
"We'll build a ladies changing room, which in turn will allow us to attract more women to our walking football team.
We'll also be installing a disabled toilet at ground level and there'll be a new players' entrance and food kiosk, too.
We expect to make these improvements during the off-season.”
Barton’s share of the Buildbase £100k Transfer Deal will allow them to use their facilities 365 days-a-year, creating revenue and strengthening grassroots ties.
The men’s first team, who are semi-professional, currently sit mid-table, 21-points adrift of leaders Corby Town and manager Tony Fontenelle was part of the pitch at Wembley Stadium.
“We didn't really know what to expect from the pitch at Wembley,” admits Whiley.
“We had a lot of local support, but also knew we were up against some bigger clubs. Our pitch focused on the benefit of the grant to the community rather than just the football team. After all, our stadium also hosts weddings, charities and dance classes.
“We were the penultimate club to pitch so we had all day to look around the stadium. It was funny because we were on a tour and Maurice Cook, one of the FA's operational staff, stopped us because he saw our club jackets.
"And it turns out he actually played for Barton in the 1980s. It was an amazing coincidence and our manager, Tony, actually remembered him.
"That encounter proved an unexpected bonus to a very memorable day and we are certainly grateful to Buildbase and The FA for supporting us with this initiative and funds.”
Round two of funding for the Buildbase £100k Transfer Deal will open later in January.