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Southern League club’s chairman left fearing for their long-term future

A Southern League club’s chairman says he has been left fearing for their long-term future, speaking in an interview with BBC Sport.

Stourbridge FC are based in the West Midlands, and currently play their football in the 7th tier of English football.

They sit 11th in the Southern League Premier Central table with 14 points from 10 games played, four points from the playoffs, 16 behind league leaders Mickleover, and six point points above the drop zone.

But ahead of their FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round clash against National League outfit Gateshead, they have revealed concerns of their over it’s future.

As per BBC Sport, they are community hub for hundreds of boys and girls playing who play for their junior teams, while also having a women’s team in the third tier and have two disability sides.

Stourbridge play at the 2,600-capacity War Memorial Ground which is also the venue for the town cricket club.

It’s a stadium popular for groundhopper, and those who attend matches can see the pitch borders the outfield used by Stourbridge Cricket Club during the summer.

Chairman Andy Pountney reveal that sharing the land is stopping the club from being able to grow.

“It’s a nightmare,” he said as he attempts to seek help from Dudley Council.

“It’s not the way forward. Whilst we get by, it’s not sustainable. I worry for the football club’s long-term future.”

The subject of Stourbridge’s long-term future, however, is never too far away from Pountney’s mind.

Pountney adds that full control of the club’s stadium, or a potential move to somewhere nearby, may have to be the way they secure their future and get additional investment.

“We’ve had loads of dialogue with the council on this issue over the years, but we’re no further forward,” he says.

“I’ll be here on Saturday with a smile on my face, but in the back of my head I’ve got real concerns about the future.

“I want to see the cricket club have their own facility and the football club to have its own facility. Until that happens we’re restricted with what we can do to really push forward. It needs resolving.”

You can read more on Stourbridge, Jude Bellingham’s connection to the club, how they’re tackling knife crime and much more by clicking HERE.

It was back in 2018, that this topic also arose, with the chairman saying, via Stourbridge News: “We are now close to the limit of where we can take the club. If we got promoted we’d have to invest potentially £80,000 to stay in the league. If we then got in the play-offs of the league above we’d be looking at £150,000-£200,000.

“While we are willing to do that, we need a commitment of some description to allow us to have full control of the site, or even another site that we can progress.

“We don’t particularly want to leave the War Memorial Ground. It would be great to get the freehold as we have the financial support to develop.

“Ideally the council has a plot of land and a solution for us because we have people willing to invest to move the club on for the community.

“We’ve had loads of dialogue with the council on this issue over the years but we’re no further forward.

“The support from the council has been embarrassing. When we have a big cup game they all come out in support of us and call up wanting tickets but I can’t think of anyone at the very top of the council who has followed through with their promises to support us.

“It’s frustrating to the point where we’re considering our position at the club due to the council’s refusal to listen to us.

“Around 23,000 people come to the site each year, not including the function room, and the money that generates for the town must also be a big positive. But it feels like the only choice at the moment is that we make do with what we have and accept we can go no higher than one more level, or we walk away and leave it to someone else.”

Councillor Ian Kettle, cabinet member responsible for planning and economic development, said: “In recent years we have worked closely with Stourbridge Football Club and Stourbridge Cricket Club regarding their respective leases of the War Memorial Ground in Stourbridge.

“Towards the end of last year we met with the football club to discuss their aspirations moving forward and we will continue to work with them to explore all possible options, this unfortunately currently doesn’t include the club’s relocation as we are unable to identify an alternative site big enough to accommodate a football ground.”

But still, there are issues regarding it five years later.

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