As Albert Adomah runs out for Aston Villa in this weekend’s Championship playoff final at Wembley, the fate of his first football club in Chiswick is far from certain. Whilst Adomah will have his eyes set on a promotion to the Premier League, the club where he played as a teenager before moving to the Professional leagues is under threat.
When asked about the situation Albert said “I loved my time playing for the Meadonians and appreciate how much the club does to support grassroots football in Chiswick. It would be terrible to see them have to close down”.
For 89 years Old Meadonians FC have been providing an introduction to adult football to aspiring young pro’s like Albert, and community football for up to 10 teams every Saturday. As one of London’s largest amateur clubs, Old Meadonians has upwards of 200 members, with players aged 16 to well over 50 turning out to play at Chiswick’s Dukes Meadows.
However, a dispute with the London Borough of Hounslow could now force the club off their traditional playing fields. Since 2001 Old Meadonians have maintained their own football pitches at Dukes Meadows, when the council announced that they could no longer afford to provide this service. The football club agreed to do cut the grass, mark the pitches, and improve the land, and to do the same for the adjacent rugby pitches of Chiswick Rugby Club. The pitches are also used by Sunday and Youth Football programs in the community, with income from this pitch rental contributing to the cost of the maintenance.
Although the management agreement between the council and the football club runs for another 10 years, the council is now proposing a new agreement with a £10,000 per annum increase in fees. At the same time, Chiswick Rugby Club are seeking to expand their presence on Dukes Meadows by taking over the management of some of the football pitches. The rugby club’s desire to become a mixed sports club is apparently driven by a desire to control enough facilities to allow them to be rented to Independent Schools from outside the borough.
According to Old Meadonians, this change in funding would force the football club to halve the number of teams it can run and would mean that Sunday and Youth football in Chiswick would be severely reduced. The combination of a huge increase in pitch costs with a simultaneous reduction in the number of footballers paying to use them seems likely to drive Old Meadonians out of existence.
Contributing to the escalating financial crisis at the football club is the fact that the London Borough of Hounslow have not responded to the club’s concerns. Lawyers have been appointed to seek legal enforcement of the maintenance agreement already in place between Meadonians and the council – a significant expense for a non-profit making voluntary organisation.
“We are hugely concerned that our ability to provide community football in Chiswick will end if these proposals are allowed to continue” said Derek Barnett, Chairman of Old Meadonians. “As a long standing custodian of Dukes Meadows we are enthusiastic about the councils efforts to redevelop and improve the area for all sports clubs and for the wider community. We hope we can convince the council to speak to us openly to find a solution that works for all”.
In 2001 the council notified OMFC that they could no longer afford to maintain the pitches at Riverside Lands. The cost to the council to maintain the area was over £25k p.a. At that point the Rugby Club only used one pitch so as the principal user of the site LBH negotiated with OMFC to take over maintenance of the site. After 5 years when the football club had demonstrated the arrangement could work and that we were prepared to invest in capital equipment, the council agreed a Management Agreement to formalise the arrangement. Notwithstanding the council offered the Agreement to the Football club solely, OMFC agreed that the Rugby Club were included in the Agreement to give them security of tenure over their by now two pitches.
OMFC has throughout the duration of the Management Agreement carried out all of the day to day management and maintenance operations. We have invested around £15k p.a. in terms of equipment, fuel, line marking paint, additional one off purchases and voluntary labour, equivalent to £225k over 15years. A large part of this has been offset with additional hires to other football pitch users, but the operation runs at a loss (typically £8k p.a.). CRFC pay OMFC for the maintenance of their pitches at a concessionary rate. The saving to the council since 2001 is estimated at over £500k.
A few years ago OMFC accommodated a CRFC request for a third rugby pitch by moving the 1st team football pitch across. The football areas are currently configured to accommodate 9 adult football pitches and four junior football pitches.
Throughout all of the discussions surrounding Riverside Lands over the last two years involving the council, the sports’ governing bodies and the various clubs there has never been any previous dispute about the proposed split of Riverside Lands for rugby, football or hockey activity.
Take a look at the range of new Nike clubwear at discounted prices available at the Meads on-line club shop via supplier Kitlocker. Players can individually purchase a range of Nike training shirts/shorts, track suit top/bottoms, hoodies, polos, sweatshirts, jackets. Items will include the club badge and can have players initials added.
Any queries or problems then contact Dave Miller on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Club Pre-season Training will start in July. New Players Welcome.