Well, the Conference Files is supposed to be released in alphabetical order, but as you may have noticed the Ebbsfleet and Forest Green entries were released before this. So apologies for all of you who have been waiting to read my opinion on EBFC, also known as The Sports, better late than never, eh?
My first encounter with the club must have been during the early/mid nineties when I noticed my local team, Kingstonian, were having difficulty overcoming a Sussex County side called Langney Sports. They eventually progressed at I think the third time of asking. Ten years or so later I noticed a club called Eastbourne Borough had taken a place in the newly formed Conference South, eventually winning promotion the season before we did.
If you don’t know much about Eastbourne Borough, and you have never heard of Langney Sports, you might be forgiven for thinking they appeared out of nowhere. And you’ll be right in thinking so, however that would be to ignore the forty years or so of hard work that has gone into getting the club where it is today.
“Resurrecting the club from its ashes as, say, ‘Wimbledon Town’ is, with respect to those supporters who would rather that happened so that they could go back to the position the club started in 113 years ago, not in the wider interests of football”.
The above comment was regarded by Wimbledon supporters as the ultimate kick in the teeth by the 3 man commission that gave Wimbledon FC permission to move to Milton Keynes. It served no purpose to the report itself, and if anything it went on to inspire us to take our own AFC Wimbledon to where they are today.
There are always going to be petty, nasty individuals involved in the running of our game, as Langley Sports found themselves some twenty-five years ago, when on attempting to gain election to the Sussex County League they encountered a local FA councillor whose opinion that they ‘were and would only ever be a parks side’… I’m sure those words have been used to motivate those at the club ever since.
The Sports did of course start as a parks side, as so many clubs have. However while the likes of the Old Centrals were kicking off on Wimbledon Common towards the end of the century before last, Langney Sports kicked off in 1964. Once in the county league they didn’t take long making an impact, moving up the divisions until winning the Sussex League in 2000.
And their upward urge continued into the Southern League, winning promotion from the Eastern Division to the Premier League just in time for reorganisation to mean an 11th place finish was good enough for a place in the Conference South. From there The Sports went on to won the Conference South playoffs twice, however first time out their 3-0 win over Cambridge City meant a further playoff with the Northern playoff winners Altrincham, a game they lost 1-2. Second time round there was to be no mistakes, as they took care of perennial chokers Trumpton 2-0.
Eastbourne Borough finished their historic first season in the Conference Premier with a solid 13th place finish, only dropping out of the top half of the table after a final day defeat by Barrow. Barrow also knocked them out of the FA Cup at the first round stage, the furthest they have achieved (although they had played in this round twice before).
The Sports made history last summer by becoming the first football club to register as a Community Interest Company (CIC), demonstrating their dedication to their local area. Langley Sports club doubles as a venue for a number of other sports (indeed one of the companies four key strategies is ‘to continue the development and growth of the Indoor Bowls Club’.
I can’t help thinking how brilliant that is. I mean we are a club owned by our fans, but at the moment we are by no means at the heart of our community (although I’m not going to open that can of worms right now…). I’d love to think at any future stadium in Wimbledon the Dons Trusts objective could extend beyond Ladies and Youth football and towards tarting the best darts team in South London.
Anyway, a CIC means the club has to plough any profits back into the facilities at Langley Sports Club. It’s great to see a local club has committed itself to its community, and without sacrificing its ambition. Another strategy is ‘to continue to strive for success in the Football Pyramid’, and to that extent The Football League is the clubs next aim, proving they aren’t afraid to dare to dream.
Another ground we should enjoy visiting, although it is on the small side it looks as though it can more than cope with large crowds, of which they have had many in recent years including their record gate of 3770 against Oxford United in 2005. The ground has cover on all four sides, and they have added two extra rows of seating to their Main Stand over the summer.
The away end is pretty small in keeping with the ground, and is the end to the right when viewed from the main stand. The opposite end has an unusual feature of a viewing lounge above the terrace, adding character to the ground. The Sports managed to pull in over 1300 on average last season, a significant rise on their promotion season even taking into account travelling supporters. For a reasonably close away trip we should expect to take in the region of 800 fans down there for a Saturday game, rising considerably should the game take on extra meaning. Or as I predicted, should it be the first game of the season!
Eastbourne haven’t released matchday prices (or they don’t appear to like advertising them!), but I will put together a comparison of the whole league before the season starts for your information.
AFC Era – None
All time Wimbledon – None
Another new opponent for us to welcome!
Eastbourne Borough O/S – http://www.eastbourneboroughfc.co.uk/Home/Home.htm
Eastbourn Borough Forum – http://eborosupporter.proboards.com/index.cgi?
EBFC Mad – http://www.eastbourneborough-mad.co.uk/
EBFC Supporters Club – http://ebfcsc.synthasite.com/