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Full Council Meeting, Monday 11th March: Birchwood Sports Project

Mar 12, 2024 | Recent News | 0 comments

At the Full Council meeting, held on Monday 11th March 2024, one of the major agenda items concerned the developing plans for the Birchwood Sports Project and the proposed partnership with Herts FA, with a view to creating a football hub on the Birchwood site with opportunities for future expansion and development of the site.

Leader of the Council, Larry Crofton, opened proceedings by outlining the details of his vision and what the potential partnership with Herts FA would entail, including what the facility would initially include and what the future could hold for the site and surrounding area.

What follows, is a full transcript of Councillor Crofton’s opening speech.

Rome wasn’t built in a day; and as many locals will know, building football facilities in Hatfield certainly takes more than a day. But I think we can all agree it shouldn’t take 20 years!

Having been elected to the town council position just under a year ago, I was determined to make things happen. 

My drive to get involved in local politics was to help make sure our community was treated fairly and to help the youth have a future. Being a carer to a disabled child has opened my eyes to where we can do more for people with disabilities as well. 

I want to see investment into our sports facilities and create opportunities for the whole community.

Hatfield Football Ground

Let’s be clear; I want to see a football ground here in Hatfield. Who wouldn’t? But that’s why I am passionate about moving this project on. I’m not prepared to turn down an opportunity to supercharge our ambitions and get something built. The proposals that this Council agreed in September, and the enhanced opportunity before us tonight, are building blocks to the ultimate aim of providing high quality facilities to support all levels of football here at Birchwood

In a few years’ time I want to be sat on a grandstand, backing onto a newly renovated Leisure Centre watching  the local team play on a premium grass pitch. And if I could click my fingers now and make that an overnight reality I would.

But the truth is we need to move towards that goal in stages. Stage one is upgrading Birchwood facilities and making it a recognized centre of football in the area. We have already secured £1 million from the Hatfield Community Sports Fund Board – who are the ones who set the community focused criteria for the funding. We always knew we would need to attract more money to fulfil the promise of the project – with a figure of a further £250,000 suggested.

Herts FA Partnership

And this is where Herts FA come in. They want to join us in this journey. They want to invest in Hatfield. Not only will they bring extra funding, but the project will benefit from their expertise, extensive networks, and the ability to attract further capital investment in future years. 

They have proposed managing the 3G facility and funding an auxiliary building alongside it. This will support the 3G facility and could accommodate a club house, new changing rooms, teaching rooms and other facilities which will allow them to support football participation in the area. The income generated will remain in Hatfield, funding the ongoing operation and maintenance of the Hub, and investing in the Birchwood site as a whole and other Hatfield Town Council sites. Hatfield Town Council will continue to operate the leisure centre and grass pitches. Both parties would then work together on future expansion of the site’s facilities.

In any agreement with Herts FA, I will insist that we have fair pricing and timetabling arrangements to ensure the 3G facilities are available for local teams and local people at affordable prices and the right times. 

The agreement would be for a license not a lease. These are quite different, we want to retain some control over things, we are not cresting a scenario where we just sign over land with no say.

Investing in Hatfield

Income generated by the Hub would be ring fenced to be reinvested into the whole Birchwood site or other Hatfield Town Council sites. There will also need to be a commitment to supporting higher grade football. I believe the most realistic way this will happen is through renovating the leisure centre and attaching a stand at the back, overlooking the premium grass pitch. 

But there is no point exploring those options or working on the detail until our full Council decide whether it wants to enter into a 30 year partnership with Herts FA. Likewise, the Herts FA Board need to decide if they wish to enter a 30 year partnership with us. This will include reviews dates throughout the agreement. 

The finer details of the agreement are yet to be discussed. What we would be doing here now, as an administration, is committing to creating an agreement that we would be happy with. This decision tonight is not for a finalisation it is so we can start.

Working with Hatfield Football Clubs

If clubs have concerns, then I would encourage them to come and work with us and Herts FA. What better way to ensure your club thrives in the new facilities than by working with us from the very start and helping us build it.

But unfortunately I understand that some people do not want to work with Herts FA, and if Members believe partnering with Herts FA is not desirable then I can understand you voting against these recommendations.

However I believe that this proposal is a fantastic opportunity for the town. It will put Hatfield on the map, and why shouldn’t it be? Why shouldn’t we go big? Why shouldn’t we give the community something to be proud of? And it will be on the map for all the right reasons. 

It will create a Hatfield home for football. The choice in front of us is clear: do we want to enter into a 30 year partnership with Herts FA or not?

– Larry Crofton, Leader of Hatfield Town Council

More details on the proposed Birchwood Sports Project can be found on our FAQ page.


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