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Maidenhead United and Maidenhead RFC set for a battle off the pitch over Magpies planned move to Braywick Park

Maidenhead United Football Club and Maidenhead Rugby Club appear to be headed for a battle off the pitch, with the tackles and the scrums coming in relation to the Magpies proposed move to a new stadium at Braywick Park.

The football club announced last year it was drawing up proposals to move from York Road, the oldest continually used ground in world football, and hoped to be playing in a new stadium on the site of the current Maidenhead Athletics Club track, just off Braywick Road.

The two clubs have held meetings to discuss the matter and it was thought the key stakeholders on the site would not stand in the way of the club’s proposals. However, Steve Bough, the rugby club’s chairman has now outlined his concerns about the development and – although he’s yet to see the formal planning application – he doesn’t see how it can proceed without some major revisions. Bough has said the development will not only take away much of the green space enjoyed by the public at Braywick, it will also rob the rugby club of training pitches used by around 100-150 young players, something he is simply unwilling to accept without the creation of like-for-like or improved training pitches.

Responding to the concerns Maidenhead United CEO Jon Adams said the club was working in consultation with all the stakeholders and would be consulting widely with the public to come up with a solution that ‘works for all’. He added that he believes the development will add to the sporting provision for the borough, not take away from it.

A formal planning proposal is still being drawn up by the club, but Maidenhead RFC have seen feasibility studies for the project and at this point Bough and the club’s committee feel they have little option but to oppose the plans.

He added that in principle the club also has the backing of the RFU and Sport England in ‘communicating their concerns’ about the development.

“Before lockdown they came to me and explained what their plans were and I told them what our considerations and concerns would be,” said Bough. “I told them we had to object because we’ve got to protect the playing fields for our members. This development would take up pitches that we have 100-150 kids on.

“There is nowhere else to put them at Braywick and part of Sport England’s recommendation is that if you’re going to get rid of a pitch you must replace it with something like-for-like if not better.

“Our main concern is the loss of rugby pitches, but it’s also about Braywick, it’s an open park that is available to everyone. Anyone can use the park or running track, and this would stop that. The track wouldn’t be open to the public, it would take away public space and it would affect the integral feeling of Braywick.

“This development is also totally against the Royal Borough’s playing pitch strategy which states that Braywick’s pitches must be protected in order to continue to meet the demand of Maidenhead RFC.

“And this proposal also has office space. Office space on Braywick? It’s criminal.”

Bough accepts Maidenhead United need to move to a new ground to develop as a full-time, professional football club and says he can see their need to create new revenue streams that could help them turn a profit in the years to come.

As mentioned by the football club when it first outlined its proposals, chairman Peter Griffin currently underwrites the club’s financial losses each season, something he says is not sustainable in the long term.

But Bough says the scale and size of what they’re proposing for Braywick Park isn’t acceptable, adding that it’s not fair to achieve their goals at the expense of Maidenhead RFC.

“They do need more space, they do need more facilities to generate money, but it’s unfair to achieve that by denying another local sports community club – who don’t have anywhere near the kind of funding that Maidenhead United have got – and take away our sporting enjoyment to replace it with theirs. I do feel for them on this, but not at Braywick.

“I can understand the athletics club. They don’t have much funds and they’re getting a free, quality, running track. The only people that are suffering are the public because they won’t have access to it like they do now. It’s very easy for SportsAble and the athletics club to support it because it’s beneficial to them.

“But it’s beneficial to them at the cost of all our members and 150 kids who won’t have the space to play rugby.

“They want to build a 5,000-person stadium with the option to expand it later. We’ve got a new school at Braywick, we’ve got a new leisure centre at Braywick and now they’re proposing an office block and sports centre. It’s getting crazy.

“There’s not going to be any greenery. It’s just going to be all tiles if we’re not careful.”

He added: “There are other concerns as well. Parking, travel, people, stewards and police everywhere when they’re playing at home, but the main issue is, what are you going to do with my 150 kids?

“I’ve said to them I can’t see there’s an answer because there’s nowhere else on Braywick to put them which will allow us to continue to grow and which gives kids the opportunity to run around outside on grass and to have a good time. That’s the problem they have and unless they decide to buy us a nice new stadium that will cost them about £8million quid I just don’t see what their options are.

“I’ve been very upfront with them. I’ve said ‘look guys I can’t see how you’re going to do this. We’re going to have to object to it at this stage because we’ve got to protect our resources’. When we see the plans, we can take a view moving forwards. We can sit down and say ‘ok, they’re your plans, they haven’t changed and we’re still objecting or, ok they’ve changed, you’ve done something here, we can talk about that’. But until they do that, we’re all a bit in limbo.”

In response Adams said: “We’ve made a commitment to the rugby club that they wouldn’t have a loss of amenity in a way that would mean they couldn’t support their existing provision, and we’re very clear that we will be making an offer that will enable the rugby to continue to be played up there.”

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