Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Grays Ath set to take first steps in moving back to borough

FOR WEEKS NOW, Grays Athletic fans have given time, sweat and money towards building a new home for Grays Athletic.

Indeed, things are looking good over at Rush Green in Romford, with FA bosses apparently happy that the ground is good enough for Ryman football (hopefully Premier) next season.

The residency outside the borough is, hopefully, a temporary one. Infact, Grays Ath are set to submit plans to return to the borough by 2013 or 2014.

The supporters trust are set to pay £3,000 for a planning application which, if successful, could see, according to the club, a £3 million stadium and a multi-use development that would also house a club bar, shop, function suite and a suite of offices in a far corner of Long Lane in North Grays.

They look like ambitious plans, led by chief executive, Andy Swallow. What is brave about Mr Swallow’s plans is that he hasn’t let the experience of investing in the Football Academy in Loughton put him off.

The Football Academy in Langston Road, Loughton went into liquidation on the 23rd December, last year, with debts, according to their Doncaster-based liquidators, nearly topping £3 million.

According to Companies House, Mr Swallow is still owed nearly £500,000 from the venture. He is not alone. Former Grays chairman and West Ham star, John Moncur is owed £250,000.

There were Thurrock businesses affected as well. Tilbury-based, Rainham Industrial Services and Romatech were left owed over £1.5million from the Langston Road venture. Whilst Tilbury businessman Tim McCarthy lost £300,000 whilst dozens of local businesses as well as public utilities are listed as creditors.

But Mr Swallow has a track record,, over many years, of dozens of successful ventures and just like two of the stars who appeared at the academy in Loughton, Mike Tyson and Jake La Motta: you take a few on the chin in order to win the fight!

With the fans right behind him, Mr Swallow has taken the (raging) bull by the horns and has become a director of a new company called The Football Academy Limited, which, from the home of Grays accountant, Tony Packer, in Chadwell St Mary, aims to bring a whole new era to Grays Ath history.

The key to the success or otherwise, of Grays Ath venture will be partnership working. The question will be whether their plans fit in with the ambitious Thurrock Rugby Club as well as the Thurrock Harriers.

The chief executive of the council, Graham Farrant and the leader of the council, John Kent, has had preliminary meetings with Mr Swallow alongside Grays chairman Keith Burns as well as former Grays chairman and manager, Micky Woodward.

Many fans are puzzled by the continuing presence of Mr Woodward at these meetings but he may be a vital link between the present regime and vital funding streams, such as, perhaps, Weston Homes.

And let us not forget about Tilbury FC’s plans that are also at a key stage and may involve, talks with Grays as well.

There is also the question of the two local ward councillors, Ben Maney and Joy Redsell. Four years ago, cllr Maney, described plans for Grays to move to the Blackshots area as “Pie in the sky.”

They have a lot of popular support however they could not stem the plans for houses at the South Essex College campus. However, the very idea of Grays Ath moving to the Blackshots area may well guarantee cllr Redsell’s re-election on May 3rd.

Looking at mooted plans, it would not be in the middle of the playing fields, nor would it be near the home of the rugby pitches (Oakfield). The area, apparently offered would be a far corner of the area off Long Lane.

So onwards and upwards for the Blues. Anyone who sits with the fans week in and week out knows how passionate they are. You also know that when they shut the door at the famous old Bridge Road ground in April 2010, many feared the club would disappear. It nearly did until, once again, Mr Swallow came to the rescue as he defied the critics and the club turned out on the first day of the season (Aug 2010) against Harlow Town in the Ryman Premier.

On that day, speaking to a press colleague from the Times, Mr Swallow said, when asked, where he sees Grays Ath in five years time?, he replied: “In the Conference South, with our own ground and our own identity.”

Would you like to bet against them? To be continued….


  1. We need to give full credit to the forward thinking Conservative Cabinet member for Community,Culture and Leisure who on the 6th August 2008 presented a report calling for a Thurrock Sports Hub to the Conservative Cabinet.

    This report outlined a location – the same site that Grays Athletics are interested in – and interestingly Grays Athletics was mentioned in the report as a partner who had expressed an interest in the Sports Hub.

    Well done to the same Cabinet member who endorsed her earlier report by voting for the Local Development Framework in 2010 and 2011 making it Thurrock Council policy to develop a sports hub.

    Who would have thought that those seeds for a Sports Hub at Blackshots sown way back in 2008 by this Conservative Councillor would have seen the posibility of green shoots emerging in the form of Grays Athletics FC building a new stadium on the site she had earmarked.

    The name of this Conservative Councillor, a former Cabinet Member with responsibility for Community, Culture and Leisure escapes me at this time.

    But she must be justifiably proud that those partnership meetings with Grays Athletics way back in 2008 could possibly result in a new sports stadium for the borough on the site she identified in her 2008 report.

  2. “And let us not forget about Tilbury FC’s plans that are also at a key stage and may involve, talks with Grays as well”.

    Interesting comment about Tilbury FC.

    They have always maintained they wanted to “go it alone” rather than join in with other Clubs to provide community facilities.

    Is the latest reaction anything to do with the Council’s recent “site specific” report for new development? Tilbury FC’s land is described as “not suitable for housing development”, so they may have lost their “golden egg” money for constructing a new ground for themselves.


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