Sports Minister visits Ovenden ARLFC ahead of refurbishment of facilities
A project aimed at breathing new life into run-down sports facilities at Ovenden ARLFC was visited by Sports Minister Nigel Adams.
The OSCA Foundation, on behalf of the club, was awarded £55,000 from the Rugby League World Cup 2021’s CreatedBy grants programme.
It is the latest in a series of grants and funding the Foundation has received totalling more than £650,000 from organisations including the Premier League, The FA, the Football Foundation, the Football Stadium Improvement Fund, Calderdale Council and Sport England.
The Foundation was set-up in 2009 to help build a first-class sports and community hub in the area.
But the clubhouse is now unsafe, the roof is leaking in many places and the facilities badly need modernising.
Preparations for the start of construction are now underway which will see four separate new changing rooms, a referee’s changing room, and a new clubhouse.
Steve Smith was born in Ovenden and is secretary of Ovenden West Riding FC, as well as an OSCA board member.
“I’m hoping the refurbishment will encourage more people to come and play here,” he said.
“We want to develop the teams we have into older age groups, right up to women’s football. It’s a long-term plan.
“I played here as a boy, I’m 74 now, and the changing rooms we’re going to refurbish were in use then.
Twelve rugby and football teams currently use the facilities every week, which are run by volunteers.
“It’s a deprived area,” said Mr Smith. “The idea behind OSCA was to improve the health and well-being of the people of Ovenden.
“This place isn’t just for sport, we have a dance group on a Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, we’ve got a disability group on a Monday, we have a youth club.
“Part of the refurbishment that Sport England have put their money into is to build a youth hub, so there’ll be a glass-fronted cafeteria, to engage people as much as we can.”
Great Britain rugby league international Jake Connor played for Ovenden as a teenager and grew up in the area, and now coaches the men’s first-team.
He said: “Growing up we had lots of rugby teams, it was packed with junior teams.
“It’s not like that anymore but the first-team’s still going, and I enjoy coaching them.
“This investment is massive. I tried to keep the team together because I knew we were getting this grant.
“It keeps the boys together. The clubhouse wasn’t in good nick and it wasn’t safe to be in there.
“If we didn’t have this investment it would have meant five boys going to Illingworth and five going to Boothtown, so the team wouldn’t be there any more.
“Ovenden have created their own identity from the way we play, we’re known as a bit of a feisty team but we like to play a bit as well.
“We’ve got some good players. It’s a close community, most of the players are from round here.
“We’ve just gone into the Yorkshire Men’s League this season.
“Hopefully all this attracts new people, not just for the rugby, but the community in general, and we can see this place a bit busier.”
Sports Minister Nigel Adams said: “It’s an enormous investment, and I think the plans are absolutely fantastic.
“Not just in terms of facilities for players but the wider plans. you will appeal to both sexes if you’ve got decent facilities to change in.
“I know it will be of huge benefit to this community, and they will be able to attract more people and events, so it’s a really positive step for Ovenden and for Halifax.”