Bexhill against Sidley moving in

New Bexhill United chairman Bill Harrison
New Bexhill United chairman Bill Harrison

New Bexhill United chairman Bill Harrison has said he doesn’t believe a temporary groundshare with local rivals Sidley United is a ‘viable option for either club’.

Sidley are currently unable to use their Gullivers ground after parent company Sidley Sports & Social Club ceased trading at the end of April and are therefore seeking a possible alternative venue.

“As a football man all my life, I’m sad for Sidley United,” Harrison said. “Through no fault of their own they’ve been placed in this position and I know what it’s like because I’ve been in a similar situation with a club before.

“If we could help, we would, without a doubt. But to be honest at this moment in time, I just don’t think it is a viable option for either club. With a first and second team, ladies’ outfits and youth sides already at Bexhill, squeezing another club into all of that just doesn’t seem realistic to me.

“It wouldn’t be fair on any of the players in any of the teams in either club. Imagine if we had a year like last season (when bad weather caused a raft of postponements) as well. It could be chaos for the fixture list.”

Former Bexhill chairman Robin Powell is understood to have approached Sidley about the possibility of a groundshare before his two-year stint in the role came to an end at the club’s AGM on Tuesday.

“As the new chairman, it is my job to look after Bexhill United first and foremost,” continued Harrison. “After that, any way we can try and help our local neighbours, we will always do our best.

“I’m not a believer of local football politics getting in the way; I don’t want to fight and I think it’s important everyone tries to work together. It’s just this particular issue, I don’t believe is realistic if I’m honest.”

A statement from Sidley read: “The club have an agreement in place with the SCFL (Sussex County Football League) to groundshare on a short-term, emergency basis. The club would like to thank Steve Nealgrove & the SCFL for their understanding & support.

“The club also have an agreement in place with Rother District Council for the hire and use of The Polegrove main pitch, main stand and changing facilities. The club would publically like to thank them for their support.

“The club has also approached Bexhill United FC with regards to the hire of their clubhouse facilities on matchdays at The Polegrove. As of early Wednesday evening, we are still awaiting their response, but are positive that an agreement can be reached between the two clubs.

“Lastly, the club would like to thank all the support it has received from local clubs and those all over Sussex, as we continue to secure the short & long term future of the club.”

Bexhill have hired The Polegrove off landowner Rother District Council for a number of years.

Rother head of amenities Kim Ross said: “Rother provides sports pitches for use by the public and over the years investment by those clubs regularly using these facilities have made them suitable for league football.

“This is available at The Polegrove and at Little Common. The council maintains the land but the relevant clubs provide and maintain the ancillary facilities. Both of these pitches are classed as public open spaces and therefore any club can request to use them with the final decision belonging to Rother District Council.

“However, the council must be mindful of wear and tear to the pitches from excessive use, the pre-existing fixtures of clubs who have already booked matches, the investment these clubs have made to attract players and the supporting youth teams. The council is happy to work with both clubs to try to find a solution if required.”

Harrison has been on the committee at Bexhill United for the past year, albeit in a back seat role, aiding the club occasionally when required. He has lived in Bexhill for three years since moving from Aylesbury, where he was also chairman of the local football club. He was on the committee and managed Leyton Town during the 1980s.