LAKENHEATH are literally a shining example of how football clubs in Suffolk can access funding for improved facilities.
The club have received £52,929 of investment from the Football Foundation in recent months towards three different projects.
One of those has been the installation of floodlights at The Nest, home of the Thurlow Nunn League Division One North club, which will be used for a night match for the first time next week.
Lakenheath, who joined the league this season, were awarded £2,700 in the summer for spectator hardstanding along the side of the ground adjacent to the clubhouse and stand.
They then applied for funding for floodlights, and were awarded £36,409.
The club then received a further £13,750 for the third phase of development for new dug outs and hardstanding behind one goal and along half the far side of the pitch.
The three applications represent a £52,929 investment from the Football Foundation Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF) which is funded by the Premier League.
This amounts to 70 per cent of the total project cost of £75,616, with the club contributing the remaining £22,687 (30 per cent) towards the three projects.
Manager Ben Cowling (pictured above) only joined the club, who had indicated their intention to apply to join the Thurlow Nunn League, last April.
Lakenheath were duly elected at the league’s AGM in June, since when The Nest has been a hive of activity.
Cowling said the total cost of the three projects has come in at just over £80,000, as some work had already been carried out as the club did not fully understand the funding process.
However, Lakenheath have received £5,500 from the Christian Enterprise Foundation charitable trust in Lakenheath and are awaiting the potential award of a further £6,000 from the Goward & Evans charitable trust in Lakenheath.
The club has also benefited from contributions from two local Councillors – Colin Noble has chipped in £5,000 and Louise Marston £2,000.
Suffolk FA awarded the club £400 via the Small Grants Scheme and Lakenheath Parish Council have contributed £250.
The remainder of the money has been raised by the club through Race Nights and Nest Fest, the annual concert held on the club’s pitch for around ten years.
Cowling, who is also the club’s Thurlow Nunn League Secretary, praised Chairman Kevin Fincham, Vice-Chairman Steve Peasey and Director of Football Tony Lyle for their vision to enable the improvements to happen.
He said: “They have put in so much time on behalf of the club on a day-to-day basis and I have helped out where I can, using the experience I gained when I was involved at Haverhill Rovers and Haverhill Borough.”
Work started on the lights in January and Cowling said that contractors Halliday Lighting were ‘absolutely brilliant’ to work with as they took just three weeks to complete the installation.
Lakenheath manager Ben Cowling pictured in front of one of the new floodlight pylons at The Nest
Cowling explained: “Having floodlights means we will be able to enter the FA Vase for the first time next season and then, should we be eligible, enter the FA Cup the following season.
“We have also applied to the Thurlow Nunn League to run an Under-18 side in their Midweek League next season, as at the moment we only have our first team and a reserve team who play in Senior B of the Cambridgeshire County League.
“Having floodlights means not only will we be able to operate an Under-18 side but also start to bring through our own players which will enable the club to become self-sufficient.
“The season after we will then be looking to start our own Ladies' or Veterans’ side.”
Lakenheath, who have also been installing new kitchen facilities so they can serve hot food on match days, will play a match under their new lights for the first time on Friday, March 15th.
Promotion-chasing Fakenham will provide the opposition for the historic fixture which is expected to attract a good crowd to The Nest, kick-off 7.45pm.
Suffolk FA Football Development Manager Jodie Allard said: “We are really pleased to be able to support Lakenheath Football Club in their commitment to improving the quality of facilities at their club.
“They have made significant strides to improve their facilities this season through three successful applications to the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, which is administered by the Football Foundation’s with funding from the Premier League.
“The FSIF provides money for clubs in The FA National League System who want to improve their facilities for players, officials and spectators. These projects take sizable amounts of time, resource and fund-raising efforts for clubs, giving many hours of their free time to bring projects to fruition.
“It’s great to see the hard work of Lakenheath’s committee being paid off to support the development of suitable facilities to support their club’s Step 6 status.”