Mims Davies, MP for Eastleigh, officially unveiled AFC Stoneham’s brand new floodlights on Tuesday ahead of the friendly match against Eastleigh. The upgrade was made thanks to a grant of £28,323 from the Premier League, through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, the largest funders of non-league football in the country.
The funding has helped AFC Stoneham to install new floodlights, enabling the club to meet the ground requirements for the Wessex League ahead of the new season. The club hopes the new upgrade will enable them to deliver top quality training and pitch facilities throughout the year for the clubs 30 teams from age four right through to adults including their ladies team.
Funded with £6.5m each year from the Premier League, the FSIF is the country’s largest provider of grants towards projects that help improve the comfort and safety of lower league football grounds in both the professional and amateur game. These improvements range from new football stands and turnstiles to floodlighting and improved provision for disabled supporters.
Mims Davies said:
‘This is a much-needed upgrade for the club and I’d like to thank them for inviting me to see the effect of the floodlights in action this evening. It is vital for clubs at the lower levels to have the best infrastructure in place, to cater to their players and fans.
‘It is important that we give football clubs the best facilities possible because they can benefit so many people. This particular project is an excellent example of the work by the Premier League which is delivered by the Football Stadia Improvement Fund.
‘There is a strong community spirit at the club which is catering for a huge number of youngsters from across the area which couldn’t happen without the amazing volunteers who are committed to supporting grassroots football.’
Mark Stupple, Chairman of AFC Stoneham, said:
‘The FSIF were a big help not only in obtaining the funding but also with advice and help on the whole process. Their support was invaluable.
‘We had a great night starting with an exhibition of football from 60 of our young “baby purps” aged 6-9 on the pitch which continued as the teams warmed up. The boys then formed a guard of honour for the teams as they entered the pitch.
‘The whole night allowed our invited guests , supporters and the people of Eastleigh to see how our community club is developing and growing all the time which will hopefully continue before and after the move to our new facility. It really was a fantastic night.’
AFC Stoneham took the lead during the first half through a Matthew Palmer free kick only to be behind at the break with goals for Conference League Eastleigh from Craig Mcallister and Paul Reid.
The home side kept up their excellent performance in the second half creating chances for Efu Khazadi, Sergio Caballero and Matthew Brewer which could not be converted into an equaliser .
First team manager, Tim Cole, said:
‘From both the players and my perspective the night was great and very enjoyable to see our whole club in full flow. We felt we gave a good account of ourselves against a strong Eastleigh side in front of a good sized crowd. The game was excellent preparation for the new season.
‘We are all very grateful to Richard Hill for bringing his full first team squad along and, as always, they were a great credit to both Eastleigh FC and local football as I hope AFC Stoneham were as well.’