Last year, NWCFL First Division South side Cheadle Town won a £50k product bursary after entering the 2018 Buildbase Club Renovation Programme competition.
Cheadle is one of the founding teams of the NWCFL and has a long and illustrious history with the league.
James Tilley, the club’s Commercial and Facilities Manager explained: “When I first joined the club last year it was trying to make ends meet and the place was so run down we couldn’t hire it out to make extra money. There was even an abandoned caravan on the site, set on fire numerous times by youths!”
Apart from the sub-standard facilities, the club was struggling to attract better first-team players, didn’t have its own youth teams and couldn’t host either girls’ or disabled people’s football.
However, The Little Sports Group took of ownership of the club at the start of 2018 and winning the Buildbase bursary was the beginning of a new era at Cheadle Town FC.
Through the bursary, Buildbase has provided up to £50k of building materials and support through the local branch in Stockport. This has enabled the club to completely refurbish its clubhouse, including the bar area, buying new furniture, lighting, carpets and a fresh coat of paint.
As a result, the clubhouse is now hired for external network meetings, yoga classes, children’s play sessions, and women’s football coaching courses – all bringing new revenue into the club.
For the players, the former changing rooms and showers have been overhauled to a high standard. The facilities are now attracting better players for the first team and have also supported youth team development, with the club entering the FA youth cup for the first time this year. Also, players attending the club’s new academy are made to feel valuable with access to such an environment.
The original plan to offer football to both disabled and girls’ teams is now happening, with several youth teams integrating these players and encouraging new friendships.
One outstanding new addition to the club’s food and drink offer is a converted shipping container, painted bright red and doubling as a café fully equipped with commercial catering equipment and providing great food on match days.
James said: “It’s so difficult for local clubs without facilities to become sustainable. The Buildbase bursary has allowed us to fast-forward that process and start building finances for the long-term. Part of that is a seven-year plan with the goal of playing in the national league by 2026.
“As well as redeveloping our entire facility, the plan involves us investing in a high standard of coaching, with all of our coaches now being UEFA B qualified.”
Apart from the obvious changes to the physical fabric of the club, there’s been a shift in other ways, according to James:
“People’s mind-set has changed. They actually want to be at the club, sit in the clubhouse and have a drink or chat. They feel comfortable now were before everyone went home after a match.
“Also, the club culture is moving from an amateur to a more professional outlook. Having professional facilities means the players and coaching staff want to reach higher standards. Football here is a lot more than a kick-about!”
The change at Cheadle Town FC has also included the community, who are now more interested in getting involved – and sponsors are actively contacting the club, rather than the other way around.
Being located near to a city with major teams like Manchester United and Manchester City, the club now feels it can offer something to Premier League club fans who don’t follow their team to away matches.
He added: “We can be an alternative for people who want to watch a match and then catch up with their main team on the television in the bar. It’s a cheap family day out or a place to meet up with mates.
“The Buildbase bursary has been huge for us – and the Stockport branch has been so helpful, sourcing whatever we’ve needed to make the renovations the best they could be.”
Chairman of Cheadle Town FC and the CEO of the Little Sports Group, which aims to provide sports coaching and further education to youngsters, Craig Brennan, said: “It’s fantastic to see the progress that has been made to our facilities as we continue to reach out and work with our local community, especially at grassroots level. The modernisations we’ve made with the Buildbase bursary also gives an improved experience for our fans.”