AFC Rushden & Diamonds Open Letter

AFC Rushden & Diamonds – ‘One Fan, One Vote, One Community, One Club’

Following speculation in the media surrounding the potential submission of a planning application to redevelop the Nene Park site, the former home of Rushden & Diamonds FC, a discussion was held at the recent AFC R&D AGM/Members’ Forum. One of the outcomes of this discussion was that the members of AFC Rushden & Diamonds wished an open letter to be written on their behalf to clarify the club’s position with relation to this. This letter can be found below:


To those interested in the provision of community sporting facilities in the Rushden, Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough area,

There has recently been speculation about a proposal to redevelop the facilities at Nene Park.  We, the members of the community owned football club AFC Rushden & Diamonds, are not privy to any information regarding such a proposal.  However, we believe that with a possible redevelopment now in the offing, it is an appropriate time for us to add our voice to any debate regarding the provision of community facilities for footballers in the local area.

Who we are:

AFC Rushden & Diamonds was formed in 2011 as a Community Benefit Society, whose rules are registered with the FCA.  The club is run by volunteers with the aim of supporting local footballers, fans and the community.  We wish to show that a successful football club does not need to spend its way to success or be ‘bankrolled’ by a financial backer, and instead can exist on the support of its members alone.  We are committed to a sustainable financial existence – it is written into our constitution.  Furthermore, we do not see people merely as assets, discarded when they are no longer of potential value to the First Team.

Through hard work since our formation three years ago, we now have teams representing the club at many levels of football, including our first team which plays in the United Counties League Premier Division at Step 5 of the non-league pyramid.  However, we are proud of our involvement in youth football and we are by no means entirely defined by ‘First Team’ results, as illustrated by the depth of teams we have:-

  • Our Under-21 team plays in the newly formed United Counties League Under 21 Division.
  • Our eight Academy teams provide a way for talented local footballers, selected through open trials, to receive high quality coaching and play competitive football.
  • Our Scholarship team, based at Malcolm Arnold Academy in Northampton, allows talented players to receive high quality coaching alongside their post-16 studies, led by ex Premier League footballer, Darren Purse.
  • Our thriving community section provides football opportunities for children from four years old to eighteen, as well as a growing multi-disability section.  There are currently around 250 children representing AFC Rushden & Diamonds in over twenty teams.  We also offer a walking football programme for the over 50’s.
  • We plan to re-launch our Ladies section in future and within this to create girls’ teams from Under-12 upwards.

What we want:

Our mission as a club is to support local footballers, local fans and the local community, as well as working with local business.  However, despite all of the progress detailed above, the lack of available facilities in Rushden, Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough makes the achievement of these aims exceptionally difficult.

Without a home of their own, the 34 teams which represent AFC Rushden & Diamonds play their matches across nine different venues. Of these, only Lancaster Park on the outskirts of Higham Ferrers, which is used as a central venue for Under-9s and Under-10s, and South End School are situated in the three towns which the club represents. This means that 28 of our 34 teams, over 82%, are playing elsewhere. Our ambition is that in the future, local football players, particularly those who are our junior members, will not need to travel outside of their home area to play. 

In pursuit of this aim, the Club has been in contact with the local Town and District Councils, current and prospective Members of Parliament and local landowners for help and advice in finding a home, so far without success.

Our views on Nene Park:

Nene Park was the home of Rushden and Diamonds FC – we are not Rushden and Diamonds FC, we are a new club, proud of our heritage, but with a new structure and a new ethos.  We are not motivated by a desire to have Nene Park under our control, as the former club once did.  Rather, we feel that as the District Council is poised to receive a planning application to redevelop the site, now is an appropriate time to make clear our own desires, circumstances and needs.  As a democratically run club, at our last AGM our supporters had their say on the rumours surrounding the proposed redevelopment of Nene Park.  There were many views on offer, but there were some common themes:

  • Nene Park was constructed by Max Griggs to be a community asset, and the community therefore has an interest in any possible redevelopment of the site.  The possibility that a private entity might profit from its redevelopment without due consideration being given to providing alternative facilities for the community is a depressing one, particularly for those local footballers currently travelling several miles to play.
  • We believe that before the Council makes any decision on the proposed redevelopment of Nene Park, it should remember the predicament of local community groups and their challenge in finding acceptable facilities.  AFC Rushden & Diamonds is one of these community groups, but we are by no means alone.

Our members do not either support or oppose any development at this stage; there is not enough information available to us at this time upon which to make a judgment. However, we do feel that now, before any planning decision is reached, is an appropriate time to explain our desire to support the needs of the local community and the problems that face us in doing so.

Going Forward:

We realise that we will not achieve our aims on our own and wish to be part of a vibrant and thriving community.  We are keen to work with other local groups towards securing suitable facilities for all our teams, as well as other sports teams, in the local area.  We are committed to working with MPs, Councillors, local landowners and other community groups to achieve this.  We would like to work with other local sports clubs to discuss the potential for multi-sport usage of existing local facilities, or any which may be created in future.  We would also like to have a closer relationship with Rushden Town Council, Higham Ferrers Town Council, Irthlingborough Town Council and East Northamptonshire District Council and to work with them to solve some of the current problems facing community sport in the local area.

We hope that this letter has gone some way to supporting this cause and, though justly proud of our achievements thus far, we hope to offer even more to the communities of Rushden, Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough in the future.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

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