'Homeless' Bicester Town Set Sights Finding New Home - 23 April
A bid to put the beautiful game back at the heart of town life, has been made by Bicester Town Football Club as it continues its search for a home ground, reports the Oxford Mail.
The Foxhunters have appealed to the local authorities to help find a home ground which will enable the team to progress up the football pyramid. For the past two years the team have been ground sharing the Playing Fields with Ardley United FC just outside Bicester. Prior to that, they had been playing at the Oxford Road sports ground but had to move out following a falling out with the Bicester Sports Association (BSA), which owns the site and have since looked to develop the site into shops.
The latest proposal from the club looks to create a new ground in Bicester, with Pingle Field put forward as a possible option, although some fans want to see the team return to its original home of more than a century.
Out-going secretary Roger Wise said: "Obviously for the past two years we have had a ground shared with Ardley who have been kind enough to let us play on their fields. They said we can use the pitch for a season whilst we find our own ground. They hosted us for a second year but obviously we can't go on sharing their ground indefinitely."
The club currently plays in the Uhlsport Hellenic League Division 1 East but last year had to turn down promotion due to the lack of home ground – a requirement for teams. The fresh bid hopes to find a new fenced off ground to build stands, dugouts and other facilities to enable the club to progress and possibly develop a youth teams, a reserve team and women's teams.
While nothing formal is on the table, the Foxhunters appealed to Bicester Town Council at a meeting on April 10 and Mr Wise said the feedback from everyone appears to be positive so far. Mr Wise added: "The matter of fact is if the club doesn’t get this in place soon it could mean the club has to drop a level or, at worst, could fold."
Fan Callum Vinall created a petition to get the club back to the Oxford Road ground and has attracted almost 2,000 supporters, despite a formal application being submitted to develop the land. He said: "Absolutely Bicester Town FC should be back playing in the town it represents. Pingle Field also shouldn't be ruled out, but the main goal is to see the team back playing on Oxford Road where it has for over 100 years. It has all the necessary facilities and could accommodate the club tomorrow if the BSA allowed it, it seems ludicrous to spend thousands of pounds building a complete new stadium on Pingle Field when we have Oxford Road with changing rooms, bar and floodlights which you simply couldn't get anywhere else."
However, this has been ruled out by the BSA, a sports trust set up 80 years ago, which has said it lacks to funds to operate Oxford Road and its other site in Chesterton. Spokesman Charles Bushe said: "The BSA is committed to supporting grassroots sport in the Bicester area and is seeking to deliver a high-quality sports hub at Chesterton. The BSA does not have the funds available to undertake the costly improvements to Oxford Road which are required or to maintain both of its sites indefinitely. This proposal represents a crucial part of plans to secure the long term future of the BSA and protect sports provision for the many grassroots sports clubs that use the BSA’s facilities at a subsidised rate."
Bicester Town Council has said it needs to assess Pingle Field to see if developing a sports ground is viable. Bicester Town Football Club did not wish to comment on the on-going talks with the local authorities.
For the Oxford Road petition http://bit.ly/2oms1mm