‘A consequence none of us would want’: Football club in race to create new stands to avoid relegation threat

A football club that has enjoyed a meteoric rise is racing to complete a series of improvements on the ground to avoid relegation.

Stockton Town FC are enjoying their first season in the Eastern Division of the Northern Premier League – fourth in their bid for promotion.

But the Anchors risk being relegated from the eighth tier of English football if they don’t improve their ground with new seats.

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Next week will see Stockton Councilors decide on plans for two new stands to be erected at the Bishopton Road West stadium.

The existing prefabricated stand is expected to be moved further along the west side of the ground to make way for a six-tier, 200-seater facility.

A 120-seat covered stand is also planned behind the goal at the southern end of the pitch.

Attendance at the MAP Group UK stadium is the highest in the league – with an average crowd of 608 so far this season.

But council officials say the newly planned stands are not in response to this increase in attendance, but to meet minimum ground quality standards set by the FA.

The report added: “Failure to meet the required standards would result in the club’s relegation from the current division.”

Stockton Town have enjoyed great success on the pitch over the past decade.

Stockton Town players celebrate Kevin Hayes’ goal in the FA Vase draw against Ashington

After leaving the Teesside League, their senior team won four consecutive Wearside League titles between 2012 and 2016.

The club’s run in the FA Vase in 2017/18 saw a trip to Wembley and a narrow 1-0 defeat in the final to Thatcham Town.

And the good times continued – with the Anchors promoted from the top tier of the Northern League last season despite the covid disruptions.

A letter submitted by the club’s committee explained how the team now played in the north of England – with the club growing to almost 40 teams covering boys, girls, women and men.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine the success the club has achieved not only on the pitch but also in our wider community with the commitment of the people of the city,” he added. .

Club officials said their facilities were a source of great pride – the new plans being a consequence of some of the successes seen.

The letter added: “This proposal is not to develop a stadium beyond the capacity of the surrounding infrastructure, but simply to provide the minimum standard of spectator accommodation.

“Failure of the club to provide these minimum facilities would result in forced relegation – a consequence none of us would want.

“If these proposals are accepted, it will not increase the crowds who attend our games, but will simply provide them with additional shelter from the winter weather – and allow our older generation of spectators to continue to attend as there will be seats available for them.”

Stockton Town FC near Bishopton Road West
Stockton Town FC near Bishopton Road West

Authorization for the artificial playing surface and renovated stadium was granted in a knife vote in 2015.

Six objections were filed to the latter plans with concerns over crowd noise and drainage.

A Chivers Court resident suggested the club were overstaying their facilities.

He added: “Isn’t it time for them to look for somewhere bigger and more suitable for the club they hope to become?”

A 3.5m high acoustic fence has been lined up on Chivers Court and Meridian Way – with planning officers recommending the new stalls be approved.

A decision will be made at the Stockton planning committee next Wednesday.

Ahead of the meeting, club chairman Martin Hillerby stressed that the plans were not to increase crowds, but to provide more facilities for spectators who show up.

“That’s what we have to provide for football at this level – it won’t add 500 people to the crowd,” he said.

“Crowds are going to be determined by success on the pitch.”

Fellow Teessiders Marske United are currently top of the league – three points clear of Liversedge who have a game in progress.

The Seasiders host Lincoln United on Saturday while Stockton travel to play-off rivals Cleethorpes.

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