New stadium for historic football club after £870,000 grant
- Credit: Bill Darnell
Construction of a new football stadium and state-of-the-art 3G pitch has been given the go-ahead after nearly £900,000 worth of funding made it possible.
Gorleston Football Club, in conjunction with East Norfolk sixth form (EN), has secured a grant of £870,860 from the Premier League, the FA and the government's Football Foundation to build a new sports complex on EN school grounds.
The long-awaited new site will come with two new changing rooms, a social space, two stands and a full-size pitch - and will serve the school and community as well as Gorleston FC.
At a meeting of Great Yarmouth Borough Council's development control committee meeting on December 9 last year, it was agreed GFC's currently "unviable" home, Emerald Park, would be torn down to make way for 97 houses.
In a statement posted to their website, the club said the move would not have materialised without a £400,000 investment from Emerald Park's landowners, Albert and Aaron Jones.
At the development meeting in December, the family offered their guarantee that the demolition of the old grounds would not begin until work at the new grounds began.
Jamie Humphries, GFC Chairman, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for GFC, the students at EN sixth form college and the local community.
"I would like to say a special thank you to the Football Foundation for their support in bringing such a worthwhile project to life."
EN's principal Catherine Richards echoed this sentiment.
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She said: "We are thrilled that funding for the new stadium at East Norfolk has been secured.
"Having a National League System standard facility on our campus in Gorleston will not only inspire our students and strengthen our local footballing partnerships, it will also open up opportunities to play at the highest level with access to the very best facilities.”
Chief executive of the Football Foundation Robert Sullivan said the organisation was committed to supporting grassroots football across the country.
He said: "Football has many benefits to physical and mental wellbeing.
"We want to support facility development projects like this over the next decade to transform the grassroots game and unlock the power of pitches."
In a statement posted to GFC's website, summer was floated as a possible completion date for the new build.
History of the club
One of the oldest clubs in Norfolk, Gorleston FC is thought to have been formed between 1884-1887.
Initially they wore crimson shirts and blue shorts, earning the nickname of 'the Cards', before switching to green and white in 1903.
The first trophy for the Greens came in the 1906/07 season when they won the Norfolk Junior Cup. Soon after, they gained membership to the senior Norfolk and Suffolk league, winning multiple trophies before helping found the Eastern Counties League in 1935.
Between 1935 and the early 50s, the club's only honour was in 1938, when GFC beat Yarmouth 3-0 in the final of the Norfolk Senior Cup.
After the war, things were a different story. The the club was to gain national fame, winning the League Cup for the first and only time in 1956.
However, by the end of the 50s, the club faced severe financial problems and had to withdraw from the Eastern Counties League, only rejoining in 1969.
In the following 15 seasons the Greens won the Championship on three occasions in 1972/73, 1979/80 and 1980/81 - never finishing lower than eighth place.
In 1980s the club moved from Gorleston Recca to Emerald Park. While exciting, it placed even further financial stress on the club.
Leaving GFC in £150,000 debt, only with goodwill from the bank and several creditors was the club able to stay afloat.
Years of relegation and promotion ensued, with the Greens winning the First Division title in 2011.
In 2012, Alan Gordon became chairman, taking over former Norwich City vice-chairman Jimmy Jones.
He stepped down due to ill-health in February 2020, and very sadly died just months later. Jamie Humphries then became chairman and remains in his position to this day.
The Greens most recent trophy was the 2014 Norfolk Senior Cup, but with a new 3G pitch on the horizon the future can only get brighter.