NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Floodlight funding delight for Whittlesey Athletic

Whittlesey Athletic celebrate their Cambs Challenge Cup success last season. Picture: DAN MASON

Whittlesey Athletic celebrate their Cambs Challenge Cup success last season. Picture: DAN MASON - Credit: Archant

Whittlesey Athletic have secured a funding windfall which ensures their promotion dream becomes a reality.

The ambitious local club have earned a rise into Division One of the United Counties League for the coming season - but that means they must have floodlights installed at their Feldale Field base by the end of September or face demotion.

The club have received £32,718 through the Premier League Football Stadia Improvement Fund to ensure the work can be carried out on schedule.

Co-chairman Dave Moore said: "As a recently formed club following the successful merger of three previous clubs in the town, we now have a platform to grow.

"We have enjoyed great success over the years but have never managed to ultimately meet the ground requirements for Step 6 football to match our on-field achievements."

The total cost of installing floodlights is close to £47,000 but the club have already completed ground-works themselves.

They have also benefitted from a generous donation from local pub Childers and other anonymous donors, and are raising the remaining balance themselves.

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The rapidly growing Athletic club boast three senior men's teams and four junior sides ranging in age from Under 8 to Under 15.

Whittlesey were previously promoted to the United Counties League for the 2016/17 season but pulled out after only a handful of Division One games after being unable to fund the necessary ground improvements.

They have now returned to that level after finishing fifth in the Peterborough & District League Premier Division in a memorable 2018/19 campaign in which Ricky Hailstone's side also completed a cup double.

Whittlesey's return to the United Counties League begins on Sunday, July 28 when they host Huntingdon Town in their first fixture. The 5.15pm clash is part of a groundhop taking place in the area that weekend.

Co-chairman Gary Munns said: "After the club regrettably had to withdraw from Step 6 football, we set the goal of rebuilding and improving our great foundations.

"That has resulted in achieving the ground grading and subsequent promotion back to this level.

"The new floodlit pitch will allow the club to develop further and we are already hoping to have an Under 18 team playing in a midweek league.

"Moving forward we have a dream of creating a community hub which everyone in the local area can enjoy, be part of and be proud about. We are also keen to open the venue up to other sports who currently face challenges operating at council-run facilities in the town."