Millworth Lane and the provision of local sports facilities for children and teenagers

Extract  from Loddon Reach Magazine October 2015 reproduced with thanks.

shinfield_Rangers_football_club_logo_modernWhilst it has yet to be officially announced, the Rangers will probably relocate to desperately needed bigger  facilities, planned for the old Ryeish Green grounds, in the next year or two. Cricket, with whom we share Millworth Lane, will also migrate to new facilities later. We need more space because both sports have grown at a rate considerably greater than the size of our community, partly by having evolved into more inclusive social and community activities in recent years, as well as the result of a lot of hard work by our volunteers. This, however, leaves the quandary of what will happen to these privately owned grounds at the centre of the village, which are run by volunteers of the Shinfield Association charity.

Historically, Millworth Lane has been the focus of sport in the village since at least the erection of the pavilion as a memorial at the end of WW2. Vacation by both Cricket and the Rangers will thus create a big change to the heart and spirit of the village, leaving only tennis and an empty field without any revenue to maintain or justify itself.

We  know from past experience that vandalism  in the village increases during the brief period in April when neither cricket nor football clubs are active. This is partly to do with changes in weather, lack of things to do for teenagers, and there being few adults around spaces like Millworth Lane, which provides the ideal isolated environment for teenage drinking and drug taking.

We also know, from an experiment done last spring, that leaving our goalposts out after training reduced the amount of vandalism at Millworth compared to before. We still had some damage but that seemed to be down to the more 40any more vandalism until we put the goals away and the grounds were left unsupervised for the month of April.

Until then, the only vandalism type of activity was with a couple of inconsiderate and vociferously rude adult dog walkers who refused to clean up their animal’s mess, deposited on our private recreation ground which is used by and paid for by subscriptions from the young children (6 years old and above) that are members of our clubs. Children, that is, who train mostly at night over winter and spring under poor lighting conditions so can’t see what they are stepping or falling into.

young girls in blue kit attacking the goal
England’s Fran Kirby and Shinfield Rangers’ FA Mentor, Shelley Strange, help at the Shinfield Schools Cup hosted at Millworth Lane

Both clubs would be reluctant to completely abandon Millworth  Lane  but  we  are  not  sure  if we can afford to pay for multiple facilities. However, the impending move and the problems with vandalism have raised questions such  as, are we thinking of sports facilities in the right way? Is putting up adult sized 11-a-side goalposts in a formally laid  out  pitch  the  only  approach to football in these days when children rarely wear woolly jumpers that can be used as posts? Should we not instead use some of the space to create a more integrated activity area to embrace other sports and activities throughout the year, run events and make them open to all, rather than just club members? All three clubs operate throughout the year, regardless of season and possession of the grounds, so should they be better co-ordinated in what they provide rather than the traditional approach  of  separatism?  The clubs do work together to host the Shinfield annual 10K race on May Bank Holiday and individually, occasionally, with local schools and clubs, but is that enough?

From the huge and ever increasing popularity we encounter at Shinfield Rangers,  we  are  confident  of the need for formal sports but we know it is not for everyone. We know from our partnership with Reading FC and the FA that there is a growing trend in sport to move away from over-specialisation in training and to broaden the scope to other sports because of the added benefits each alternative sport offers in terms of parts of the body affected, improved spatial awareness and so on. Perhaps we should do more as a community for those who prefer a casual approach, and to provide activities that offer more variation and integration than we currently do. In that way, the move to new grounds by the existing clubs could be a good thing. The problems though are in finding enough of these three factors: funding, resourcing and volunteers of which, sadly, there are not enough of any to go round.

On  other  matters…  The  new  football  season   is upon us. From last season we’d like to thank James Roth and Mike Perrett for all  the  work and love they put into the club  as  Chair  and  Vice Chair over the years, to Brian Strange for    his brilliant work in girls’ football over the years and standing in as Acting Chair for the last few months of the season, and to Shaun Tuggey and Richard Entiknap for their hard work in helping to recover our heavily over-used pitches in the past few months.

Raymond Barclay Shinfield Rangers Youth FC