Supporters of Guiseley Football Club are urging the community to get behind its ambitious stadium upgrade scheme.
The plans for three new stands, extra turnstiles, toilets and more came under fire from some quarters last week – amidst claims that the club hadn’t forewarned local residents.
But Guiseley AFC has defended its proposals, insisting the changes are vital for its ambitions to bring its Nethermoor Park grounds up to 21st century standards.
The club is calling on its fans to be vocal in their support for the development and have received backing on Twitter and other social media sites.
Long-time supporter and Otley resident Robert Hall said: “The community has got to get behind the club.
“I was born and bred around here, went to Guiseley School and started to go and see them with friends when I was 15 or 16, just for something to do.
“I’ve been watching them ever since and started taking my son, Alfie, along when he was about four. Now, at nearly ten, he goes to virtually all the home games and some of the aways.
“The club is really good for youngsters – accompanied children under 12 get in to watch games for free and the registered charity status they’ve now got means they can fund even more work in the community.
“And the football courses they run in the half-term holidays are so cheap and help encourage young people to get into the game.”
Mr Hall said he thought concerns about parking on match days had been exaggerated by the club’s critics.
Guiseley FC Supporters Club issued a statement saying: “As supporters, we’re excited by the club’s plans to improve the facilities at Nethermoor in order to achieve promotion and strengthen our links with the local community.
“In difficult times, Guiseley FC has maintained a national presence for the town and provided a focal point for the people of Aireborough. Many of our fans were supporters of the nearby Football League clubs who visited and kept coming back, pleasantly surprised by the high standard of football and the friendly surroundings at a reasonable cost.
“We’re proud of our team and our club – everybody pulls together – and we know that some changes need to be made.
“But the last thing any of us wants is to lose Nethermoor’s unique atmosphere.”
Guiseley AFC initially declined to comment on claims made by some residents, and its neighbour Guiseley Cricket Club, that it had not consulted about the plans – and that they would represent a “further encroachment” on land that is, under historic agreement, meant to remain accessible to the public.
But last Thursday – the day the Wharfedale & Aireborough Observer ran the story – the club issued a statement outlining the benefits it believes the improvements would bring, both to the club and the community.
Referring to the need to cater for more spectators, and to a higher standard, it said: “The current planning application seeks to replace one of the existing covered areas with a new stand of 300 seats to an identical design as one of the existing stands.
“The club is also looking to cover the existing terrace behind the goal and eventually behind the dugouts to a design that will match the existing stands and give Nethermoor the look and feel of a club that is going places.
“The other areas of concern to be addressed in relation to the spectator match-day experience is the lack of toilets and refreshment facilities at the railway end of the ground, a particular concern in early and late season when the shared facilities in the social club are not available.”
It also says that a multi-purpose community building, part of the second phase of its redevelopment ambitions, would boost the work of the recently formed Guiseley AFC Community Foundation and help its Football Academy.
Guiseley AFC press officer Matt Rogerson said: “We would ask all supporters of the club’s varied activities to voice their support for the plans as we seek to progress on and off the field.”
The stadium development application and any public comments that have been received about it are with Leeds planners.