Newport Pagnell Town have big ambitions for the future as the ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division club’s new hierarchy aim…..
…..to improve the stadium and be promoted two divisions to the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier within five years.
The Swans are Milton Keynes’ second biggest football club, after MK Dons, but currently play at Step 5 of the non-League Pyramid.
Following a restructure at the club, Ian Ford has taken over as head of football, leading the newly-formed football committee, which are looking to close the gap to Dons, with MK chairman Pete Winkelman supporting their progress.
However, to be eligible for promotion, various improvements need to be made to their Willen Road ground, including a new stand, to increase seating capacity from 200 to 300, as well as new turnstiles, pitch perimeter fencing and a changing room extension.
“We are the second biggest football club in Milton Keynes, but the gap between us and the MK Dons is huge,” Ford told OneMK. “We need to close the gap by getting Newport’s first team up a couple of division, to be playing at a higher level.
“The project is five years, the hope is by next April we can get our ground ready to play at the next level and then next season strengthen the team with a higher playing budget, to get up a division and start the journey.
“We believe we can get to Southern League Division One Central in two years, then hopefully continue to raise revenue, get more people through the gates, strengthen the team even more and continue with our links with MK Dons to get up to Southern Premier three years after that.”
Ford admitted he is new to the business of running a football club but together with the help of Winkelman and officials at other clubs, is quickly learning on his feet and said the freshness of the committee brings enthusiasm.
“We met this weekend with Pete Winkelman, Pete came down to the ground, had a look at where we’re at and what we’re trying to achieve, the work that needs doing and he’s agreed to guide and support us.
New turnstiles and fencing are among the improvements required at Willen Road
“He’s coming back in January once we’ve got our plans documented, to help us on that journey as one of the parts of the project is to bridge the gap between the club and MK Dons so we can work together.
“I’ve been at the club for twelve years as a coach, but I’ve never run a football club in my life, I’ve no idea what I’m doing but by talking to people in the game and getting contacts and learning very quickly and using that knowledge.
“The majority of people haven’t been involved in running a football club which is great because you’ve got fresh ideas, no-ones stuck in a rut, they’re all very enthusiastic and believe they can make this happen.”
The club have never played at a level higher than their current standard, but Ford believes Newport Pagnell is big enough to sustain a Step 3 club, citing the club’s current junior set up as a show of the interest in the town.
Rising up the divisions will also require a doubling of the player budget, something the club plan to be able to fund through increased gates and sponsorship.
“We think the town can support Southern Premier and that’s where we aspire to get to. Newport’s got a population of 17,000 people and we’ve got twenty-three youth teams with 275 children registered, so there’s clearly interest out there.
“On the existing player budget we will probably need 50% increase on what we’ve got now to get promoted from this division, a further 50% increase on that budget to stay in Southern Division One Central and then an additional 25% on top of that to get into the Premier, you’re not talking about huge sums of money at this level but it’s a significant step up.”
The first stage in the project is to make the required ground improvements, to meet the FA strict ground grading criteria and be eligible for promotion, with the club having already held meetings with the Football Stadia Improvement Fund.
The cost of those works will likely run into six figures, and potentially substantially more if they choose to install a 3G artificial pitch at the ground.
“We met with them to tour the ground and go through the list of improvements we need to make and their going to cost it up and look into what funding and grants are available.
“There is an opportunity for us to put in a 3G pitch which means the youth teams can all train there, we can hire it out to get revenue in and, obviously, all our teams can play on it.
“We get an average gate of 120 so we’re not a big club with disposable income so we are going to rely on grants but some of the funding we have to match 50%.
“We’ve set up a Supporters` Association to focus on fund raising and the members and directors might also be required to dip into their pockets in order to ensure the project gets off the ground”.