‘Little Wembley’ for amateurs on cards

The Halifax Saturday League’s dream of having its own ground for showpiece games is to become a reality.

Mick and Carol Sheppard, who sponsor the league under the Haslem-Sheppard banner, have purchased an eight acre site off Blackwall Lane at Sowerby Bridge, next to the SBCI cricket ground.

The league plans to develop the area at the Astley, formerly used by now-defunct Sowerby Bridge Robins ARLFC, to provide two full sized football pitches with floodlights, junior pitches, changing rooms and a car parking.

Preliminary work has already started with the Sheppards assisted by league fixture secretary David Rattigan and and treasurer Joe Reid.

Early priorities are to cut the grass, get water and electric to the site and fence it off.

The AFL will be seeking grants to develop facilities and have asked for support from local businesses and individuals to help create “a little Wembley” for the area’s amateurs.

Rattigan said it was a tremendously generous gesture from the Sheppards to purchase the land for the league. “It has long been an objective of Carol and Michael for the AFL to have its own ground.

“Our main aim is to have a football pitch that would be used for all cup semi finals and finals, along with other showpiece games.

“The idea is to provide not only for the local Saturday league but also the Halifax & District FA, Halifax Sunday League, the Halifax Junior League and also for women’s football.”

Sheppard, who is president of the Halifax AFL and has been involved with local football and cricket for more than half a century, said Calderdale was crying out for such a facility.

“Carol and I own it but it will be left to the league when we are not here,” he said.

“We are putting something back after all the enjoyment we have got out (of local sport) over the years.”

Local clubs have become increasingly frustrated by what they perceive to be a lack of investment in amateur sport by Calderdale Council and a deterioration in the standard of facilities.

The topography of the area means there are few flat sports grounds and Sheppard said it had become increasingly difficult to obtain the Shay for local finals.

Sheppard said that the Halifax area was crying out for the type of facility the AFL was keen to provide.

It is hoped that the site at the Astleys will be up and running in 12 months’ time, but Rattigan warned that there were still many bridges to cross before the league had a football complex it could be proud of.

“Anyone who feels they can offer the slightest help should contact me,” he said.

Rattigan can be contacted on 07752 245763.