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When the FA announced that Season 2020/21 was to be curtailed, it brought about the end of our groundshare agreement with Bootle FC after 5 highly successful years.
Relations between the two clubs had frayed against the backdrop of the pandemic and by their actions Bootle made it abundantly clear that we had outstayed our welcome, but prior to this the two clubs had enjoyed good relations off the field and a healthy football rivalry.
The feeling was largely mutual as a significant amount of our supporters and volunteers expressed a desire to leave Vesty Road. Consequently, we never opened discussions for a renewal of the agreement and Bootle never offered terms.
We had 5 great years there and have made memories that will last a lifetime and we will be reminiscing about the good times over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, we wish Bootle FC the best of luck in their future endeavors and with an FA re-organisation looming, it looks like the promotion to the NPL that had eluded them these last few seasons will come to fruition and we will be seeing them again sooner rather than later!
In November 2020, discussions began with Prescot Cables about the potential for us groundsharing there for season 2021/22. The discussions were cordial and positive, and we moved forward into the New Year thinking that we would be playing at Hope Street next Season.
All clubs in the National League System must have what is known as “security of tenure” in place for the following season by 31st March of the current year. In our case currently this means a Groundshare Agreement.
We continually touched base with Cables to assess the position and were never given any cause to think there was a problem. On the 8th February we received an e-mail offering terms for a Groundshare for Season 2021/22. These terms were accepted by us immediately.
With the curtailment of the season in February, Bootle FC announced publicly on the 3rd March that our Groundshare Agreement had ended. At 9pm that same night we received a phone call from Prescot Cables informing us that they had had a change of heart and had now decided that the Reserves team would be playing on the pitch instead.
We were both astonished and angry at this turn of events, which left us with 28 days to secure a groundshare agreement with the suitable grading for the NPL or be relegated. The timing of this phone call / decision has left a very sour taste in our mouths.
There are only 5 grounds at our level locally that have that ground grading, 4 of which are Marine (who already have a tenant), Bootle (see above!), Prescot Cables (see above!) and Runcorn Linnets. We had a cordial if uninspiring meeting with Linnets to discuss the possibility of going there, but it was clear to us that there was no appetite for us playing there. We left Runcorn certain that we needed to keep looking.
We discussed Melwood with Torus Housing Association (not possible), Prenton Park with Tranmere Rovers (out of our league financially!!) and Walton Hall Park with Everton Ladies, which after some positivity from Everton sadly couldn’t come to fruition.
We also spoke to several clubs in and around the area whose grounds “might” have the required grading and held discussions with them, but 1 by 1 each of these options came to naught.
However, the 5th facility in our area that we were certain had the grading was Vauxhall Sports & Social Club near Ellesmere Port. It is a National League level ground and facility and, after speaking to the Chairman Tony Woodley, we knew we had someone who we would enjoy working with.
In a little over a week, we had viewed the facility, agreed a deal, had a ground gradings visit and signed a 2-year Groundshare Agreement and in doing so maintained our place in the Northern Premier League, which was our key strategic goal.
Having earned our position in the NPL the hard way (by winning the NWCFL Premier Division) we were determined not to lose this status.
Vauxhall Sports & Social is an outstanding football facility and is 11 miles from the Pier Head along the A41, although we appreciate that there is a big River to get across as well!!
Arrangements are already in place to provide a shuttle bus service from the City Centre to ensure our supporters can continue enjoying The Purps and watching Michael Ellison’s exciting new squad follow on from its good start in this curtailed season.
We have supporters all across the City Region and appreciate that this move will be further away for some and closer for others, but we know that all Purps will understand the predicament we were placed in and will get behind the club, for what is hopefully 1 season (more on this to come shortly).
We’d like to go on record in thanking each and every club who took the time to speak to us and explore the possibility of us groundsharing with them, as well as the representatives of the NPL who worked with us every step of the way to ensure our continued membership of the league.
Thank you most of all to Mr Woodley and Vauxhall Sports & Social Club. We are looking forward to playing at your excellent facility!