On the 10th August 2020 we received a letter from Grahame Scruton, the Mayor of Epping, informing the club that Epping Town Council have decided not to renew the licence at Stonards Hill for the 2020/21 season, effectively kicking out senior football from Epping. Epping Town played in the Spartan league in 1936 and were London league premier division champions in 1963/64. In 1975/6 the club won division 2 of the Arthenian league before joining the Isthmian league until the mid-1980s. Football remained at Stonards Hill and the club brought back the Epping Town FC name for the 2018/19 season. Epping Town Council have now decided to pull the plug on the club making any more history at Stonards.
The reasons given by Mr Scruton include “Epping Town FC have questioned and criticised Epping Town Council over their management of Stonards Hill” Surely, in a democracy, it is every person’s right to question and challenge, indeed the basis of freedom of speech that still exists in the UK today! For reference, the point of the questions and criticism has always been based on requests to use the football pitches at Stonards for preseason training and matches. In times of poor public health and a national obesity crisis, leaving sports fields unused between May and September is at best a scandal, but more importantly, denies young, local people the opportunity for organised exercise. Mr Scruton also states, “care is taken over the maintenance of the football pitches, which seems to be overlooked by the clubs desire to play and train on the pitch as much as possible” Over the last 3 years, due to weather and the Covid crisis, there have been about 30 games played on the pitch. Most senior pitches would have seen over 150 games during that time and often 2 training sessions per week.
Over recent years Epping Town Council have taken down the floodlights, removed the covered stand and refused permission for dugouts at Stonards as well as the refusal to allow league games to be played in August. This year we again approached the council to request games at Stonards in August and despite requesting to play games to raise money for a charity and the NHS, our request was flatly rejected. A request to use Stonards for an under 18 team was also rejected, Mr Scruton also cites a letter sent to the local MP in his letter to the clubs chairman “where further abusive comments were levied at the council” Again requesting help from ones MP to raise concerns about town folks’ holistic health is a right in a democracy and raises concerns in itself about Scruton’s approach to people’s rights?
The football club discussed the situation with the Football Association ( FA), presenting the councils “evidence” ( we are happy to share this if people wish to see the criticism that apparently offended Mr Scruton and his fellow councillors) and an FA spokesman said ” If all councils took this stance when criticised over use of facilities, there would be a lot of clubs with no ground to play football on”
To ensure the senior Football Club in Epping continues, we are delighted and indeed indebted to the great people at Epping Upper Clapton Rugby Club. We will sadly be leaving Stonards, to play our home games at the Rugby Club based at Upland Rd, Thornwood Common. This presents our club with a great opportunity to grow and develop, an opportunity that Epping Town Council have been set on denying us for several years (in our experienced opinion).
The Rugby club are currently unable to play competitive rugby due to Coronavirus restrictions and we aim to provide an outlet for people in the local area to enjoy competitive sport whilst supporting their local town
Epping Town FC make no apology for any criticism or challenge to Epping Town Council and believe any such challenges have always been motivated by a desire to provide a sports club that the people of Epping can support and be proud of. It is our opinion that Epping Town Council have indeed been obstructive in the club’s efforts to thrive and although it saddens us all, Epping Town Council have forced Epping Town FC out of Stonards.
Epping Town FC will be playing our first home game of the season 5th September 2.15pm kick off and we ask the good people of Epping to show your support for The Football and Rugby club by turning up to enjoy live sport and cheer on the town’s senior football club.
We are still looking for further sponsorship to help us fund the transition to our new home and if you can help in any way or you would like to get involved with the new venture then please do contact us at Eppingtownfootballclub@gmail.com.