Thursday, July 25, 2024

Grays Ath and Thurrock rugby clash over new stadium proposals

THE CHAIRMAN OF GRAYS Athletic, Keith Burns presented the clubs plans to move back into the Blackshots area to a packed Stifford Clays community forum last night (Monday).

The hundred strong audience contained a large scrum from Thurrock rugby club as well as local councillors and residents.

It would be fair to say that it was hardly a warm welcome for Grays Athletic who have been homeless since 2010.

Mr Burns knew it was going to be a bumpy ride and so explained to the assembled throng that the plans were a “moveable feast”.

He outlined the troubled history of the club over the past six years since they lifted the FA Trophy. He indicated that the club had funding in place but did not go into specifics.

The plans presented saw a football stadium next to the rugby club plus a large number of five-a-side pitches surrounding the Oakfield ground.

The first bone of contention was when Mr Burns indicated that the club had had preliminary talks with the club through director of rugby, Ralph Henderson.

Committee members informed Mr Burns that Mr Henderson was not a committee member and so not speaking for the club.

However, president Brian Howells indicated that he had no problems with a football stadium in the area, however it was a question of logistics.

He said: “It is busy enough down Long Lane when we are playing. What would it be like when football coaches are coming down there?”

The chair of the community forum, Len Orpin also gave his support for football in the area. He said: “We all want to see sport flourish in the borough in principal.”

Ray Abbott, who led the protests against housing in the Woodview area of Blackshots echoed concerns about space. He said: “We have had 350 new homes imposed upon us by the council and the (now defunct) Development Corporation).

“There are real concerns about traffic and noise and pollution and infrastructure here but if the council want this then they will ignore the residents concerns.

Council officer, Richard Hatter (who was present at the meeting on a separate matter) told the residents that they could all have their say on a number of possible planning proposals.

He said: “There are a number of q and a sessions and information sources that can help you understand the planning proposals across the borough.”

Former mayor and lifelong Grays fan, George Watt also spoke to put to try and put the fans perspective.

He said: “The club is simply responding to an opportunity that the council put forward to develop a sports hub in either the Blackshots or Belhus area.

The rugby club and the football club agreed that the right people should meet to take matters forward.


  1. As Chair of the Stifford community Forum I would like to thank everyone for the massive turnout at the Forums meeting on Monday evening. Although there was a lot of objections to GAFC returning to North Grays I feel this has now got things on track to a way forward in discussions with all parties including Thurrock Council. It does not necessarally mean Thurrock Rugby Club have the final say, that will down to the Plannings Department and the planning application from GAFC.

  2. I would have thought a misunderstanding between Grays Athletic and Thurrock Rugby club would have been a more accurate headline to this news item!!!

  3. What about other sports in the area? I play hockey in Thurrock, we’re currently based at Palmer’s but have no place to call our own.

    Most of the time it feels like any so called ‘minority sports’ are pushed aside, in favour of the bigger sports. We are also part of this community and I would greatly appriecate this ‘sports hub’ incorporating all sports from hockey to baseball to football and rubgy!

    With it being an Olympic year (especially being in London) that participation in sport will increase massively and I don’t see a reason why Thurrock cannot be at the forefront of the sporting future. We as a borough have produced gold medalists.

    I’m sure that eventually all the other sports in community will get a say in this as well. Well I hope anyway.

    These are my views and not of my clubs, I also have no committee affiliations!

  4. The current plans include a hockey pitch which is to be offered to Thurrock Hockey Club together with changing facilities and a bar.Grays Athletic will I am sure be in touch with THC to discuss further.

    The sports hub does what is says on the can ,a hub for all sports which includes hockey netball and kids football,and shared training facilities for Rugby..

  5. I am glad that the club (GAFC) have finally had the chance to put across their ideas. As a third generation lifelong fan, I hope that the club returns to Grays sooner rather than later. A lot of the fans have put in hard work to get a run down stadium in Rush Green, Romford in a suitable condition to host football next season. I hope their hard work and loyalty will be rewarded with a return home in the coming years. It would be good if something good actually happened in Grays for a change.

  6. @PERMAN, that’s great news for us as a club. I’m sure our committee know about it (well more than me obviously.)

    Will there be additional areas for other sports too (other than ones discussed above)?
    Also is there anywhere I can read the proposal? (I maybe young, but would love to read it)

    @1890grays it’s never good for any club to be nomadic or reliant on someone else, must be a good group of fans to help with work to make a stadium fit for the new season.

  7. It was interesting that the “community” keeps being mentioned when in fact no residents were invited to attend further meetings with the football club! Keith Burns negated to expand on the football academy issue that is HIS core business. The reality is this project is about lining the pockets of a few irrespective of he impact on the many. May I remind Mr Orpin, as Chair, he must remember that meeting etiquette requires impartiality and not take sides. The reason the meeting was so well attended by local residents and Rugby Club members is the lack of information that has been forthcoming on the facts behind the proposal.

  8. I had the pleasure of attending the meeting and was amazed that such a project could be proposed with little or no consultation of all potential partners. This is supposed to be a development of a ‘Community’ sports hub yet the only section of the community to have been engaged is GAFC. I fully understand Mr.Burns wanting to develop his business but that is exactly what this is, a commercial venture. These facilities will not be offered for free to either the Hockey club or other ventures within the GAFC complex.
    With regards to the Hockey club, with the exception of a few clubs, you utilise the facilities already available within the community that you call your own. Just look at the number of Saturday and Sunday footballing sides that play on Local Authority pitches and have no ‘home’.
    The chair said if this were Ford wanting to build a factory everybody would be against it……well this is Mr. Burns wanting to build his ‘sports’ factory!
    I would like to add that as a local resident, we were not contacted in relation to this plan and the extra vehicular activity /parking and environmental impact this will have on our community. I don’t even suppose anyone has been to the travelling community to discuss the impact this will have on their static site. They have also been here years and are part of our community.


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