Sheffield football club 'no longer has a future' at historic home

Ecclesall Rangers chairman Martin Windle at the site off Carter Knowle Road
Ecclesall Rangers chairman Martin Windle at the site off Carter Knowle Road
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A Sheffield football club with hundreds of young players claims it 'no longer has a future' at the ground which it has called home for most of its existence.

Ecclesall Rangers Junior Football Club, which has 23 teams, was formed in 1990 and for many years played on land off Carter Knowle Road, which was formerly the playing fields for Abbeydale Grange School and the Bannerdale Centre.

Ecclesall Rangers chairman Martin Windle with young players

Ecclesall Rangers chairman Martin Windle with young players

It was forced to relocate last season during construction of the new Mercia School, but had hoped to return for the 2018/19 season.

To secure its long-term future at the site, and help secure funding for what it said were badly needed new facilities, the club wanted to fence off pitches on the public land to keep out vandals and prevent dogs fouling the playing surface.

Ex-Sheffield Wednesday boss Howard Wilkinson and former Premier League referee Keith Hackett are among more than 900 people who have signed the club's petition calling for permission to erect fencing.

But Carter Knowle & Millhouses Community Group says many residents oppose proposals to restrict public access to the field, which is also used by Millhouses Junior FC, and has called on Ecclesall Rangers to 'be realistic' about sharing what it called a 'valuable green resource'.

Howard Wilkinson had signed the club's petition

Howard Wilkinson had signed the club's petition

The council has said it was in discussion with the two clubs and the wider community about how best to improve the site for everyone.

But, in a message to members, Ecclesall Rangers founder and chairman Martin Windle claimed the council has now confirmed the pitches will not be fenced.

He said the decision would have a 'massive impact' on hundreds of children and their parents, and he accused those in power of 'letting down' the club.

"I, along with many other people, have worked so hard to secure a ground for Ecclesall Rangers, only to be let down by the council and those in authority, who have strung us along, knowing they were wasting our time, with broken promises. Who are we to believe?" he wrote.

"It's impossible to express the sadness I feel in knowing that our club no longer has a future at Bannerdale."

Mr Windle, who claimed numerous games had to be cancelled in previous seasons due to the 'dangerous' state of the pitches, added that he understood the latest plans for the site include turning the old tennis courts into cricket nets and creating an athletics track, complete with sand pit, and a cricket square.

Councillor Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure at Sheffield Council, said: "We have held talks with Ecclesall Rangers Junior Football Club and they can still play football at its current location.

"But the high fencing around the pitches, that the club is seeking, would mean a further reduction in publicly accessible green space. The club still has the option to play at these public pitches."