CONIFA Stadiums – Arbour Park
This is the second in a four-part series looking at a selection of non-league stadiums chosen to host CONIFA Football World Cup Matches in London this summer
Stadium: Arbour Park – Slough Town FC
As Londoners looked west each evening to see the setting sun, a town in the distance called Slough went largely unnoticed. A population of 150,000, it’s reputation until recently was neither radiant or sparkling.
Enter ‘Slough Urban Renewal,’ a regeneration partnership between the local council and Morgan Sindall Investments Limited. Ten years after last visiting Slough, the difference was palpable. ‘An epic period of rejuvenation and renewal‘ was the promise and for once the reality begins to match the promise.
‘The Curve,’ an award winning library complex, ‘The Centre,’ a new leisure facility, housing, new school buildings and best of all, a new football stadium called ‘Arbour Park’ for the local team.
Slough Town FC had been playing ‘away from home’ for over a decade, ground-sharing at Windsor & Eton (now Windsor FC) and Beaconsfield SYCOB (now Beaconsfield Town). During that time it was impossible for the club to broaden their horizons, rather they simply looked to survive the day.
Daniel Brench, board member of the Slough Town Supporters Trust said, “Arbour Park is a fantastic facility which has allowed our club to return home after 13 years of exile. “The club has grown since its return to the town (in August 2016) with attendances up from around 250 to around 650, it’s a stadium for the whole community.”
The increase in attendances and all round feel-good factor has translated onto the pitch. ‘The Rebels,’ as they are known, went on a fine FA Cup run in 2017/18 (hosting league side Rochdale in front of 1,950 fans and the TV cameras) and won their play-off final at Kings Lynn Town. That victory meant promotion to the National League South, non-league football’s second highest tier.
The shimmering new stadium holds up to 2,000 people and is dominated by the main stand which contains the club house, offices and changing rooms. Its design is eye-catching from the outside and the steep incline of the seating means the views of the action are excellent. The rest of the ground has a wonderful symmetry about it with covered terraces behind each goal and another seated stand opposite, which looks resplendent with its bright yellow seats.
The club were honoured to be hosting three CONIFA Football World Cup matches and a healthy crowd were in attendance for a rather fractious Punjab v Western Armenia match, played out in glorious sunshine. Many new grounds can often feel quite soulless, this wonderful occasion showed that doesn’t have to be the case.
The soul, comes from the people. As with most clubs, volunteers are vital, Daniel cites an “amazingly dedicated core of fans who are willing to cover jobs all over the ground, on match days and for other events too.”
The club receive income from the bar, the trust and have increased their sponsorship base. This, and increased season ticket sales, means a new scoreboard is said to be on its way and the club, like the city is becoming a dazzling place to be.
Arbour Park was chosen to host three matches during CONIFA Football World Cup 2018 – visit the website for more information http://www.conifa.org/en/
Photos can be found here https://flic.kr/s/aHsmj62zge
CONIFA, the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, is the football federation for all associations outside FIFA. It’s a global acting non-profit organization that supports representatives of international football teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories.
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