Lions race to get their ground up to scratch

Guiseley AFC's chairman Phil Rogerson pictured at the Nethermoor ground, Guiseley.
Guiseley AFC's chairman Phil Rogerson pictured at the Nethermoor ground, Guiseley.
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FOR GUISELEY chairman Phil Rogerson, the honeymoon period following the Lions’ promotion to the National League lasted all of one joyous evening.

May 9, 2015 went down in folklore as the greatest day in the club’s 106-year history.

There were ecstatic scenes after they overcame a 2-0 deficit to book their place in the Conference at the fifth time of asking after a 3-2 Conference North play-off final victory at Chorley.

It proved a long night as well and while Guiseley’s partied-out supporters and players woke up with sore heads the next morning, Rogerson possessed a hangover of a different sort.

Guiseley may have achieved their Holy Grail, but the hard work would soon begin for the Lions, who kick off their 2015-16 campaign at Welling in seven days’ time.

Many would venture that assembling a squad to compete against a host of full-time outfits, including a fair few established former Football League sides such as Tranmere Rovers, Wrexham and Grimsby Town, would be the most pressing mission.

Think again, with Guiseley immediately pitted in a serious race against time to make a whole raft of improvements to ensure Nethermoor, whose capacity is 3,000, can stage Conference football beyond 2015-16.

On the pitch, the goal may be National League survival and avoiding the drop, but they face a stiffer challenge off it.

By March 31, 2016, Guiseley must fulfil membership criteria for the Conference Premier and achieve an A grade ground status, when their capacity must be extended to 4,000 – or face being booted out of the division regardless of how they fare on the pitch.

For Rogerson, you can safely assume it has been the most hectic of summers getting Guiseley fit for purpose at the fifth level of English football. Twelve-hour days? And the rest, in his words...

While it may be a momentous day for Guiseley when they make their National League bow at Welling, a bigger date comes 48 hours earlier.

Thursday’s ‘fixture’ is all about receiving the green light from Leeds City Council for their planning application to transform Nethermoor, which Rogerson acknowledges is an embarrassment in its current state.

Work has taken place throughout the summer to start transforming and tidying up Nethermoor.

But to receive an A grade, plenty more needs to be done, such as the construction of covered stands, extra toilets and refreshment facilities.

The second phase involves the building of a much-needed new clubhouse, with the whole revelopment costing between £2m to £3m.

Rogerson will line up with the Lions’ travelling contingent who head to Kent a week tomorrow and how he is praying that the club already have one positive result in the bag.

On receiving council support for the project, Rogerson said: “We are now getting some fairly positive noises at last. Obviously, it would be a complete disaster if it didn’t happen.

“It has to happen now if we are to be anywhere near getting the ground capacity right.

“We have BT Sport here in October for the Lincoln City game and what they would be filming now is an embarrassment – for the whole county.

“We’ve plans to put that right and make it a stadium that the area can be proud of.

“We are talking to the Football Stadia Improvement fund and have backing from (director) Steve Parkin and other directors.

“We’re confident we can do it; it’s just getting through that planning process.”

Rogerson’s in-tray has been a considerable one and while the project to transform Nethermoor has occupied the majority of his time, the sea-change that comes with elevation to a national division which is frequented by a plethora of professional clubs has also made it a whole new ball game for Guiseley.

It is all a far cry from the days when Rogerson watched Guiseley in the old Yorkshire League, having first got involved with the club through his ex-wife’s father, who was club secretary.

Rogerson said: “I can remember debating whether we should put lights up for the FA Cup. It’s unbelievable that was only 25 years ago. It’s an amazing story really.

“But it’s a different level now. It’s not knowing what you don’t know, really.

“We went into the final last May not knowing daring to think what might happen on the day.

“Suddenly, you wake up the following morning realising that it is just a completely different ball park – in terms of everything from budgets to the logistics of all the overnight trips south.

“It’s a huge change. We are now a club who will travel the length and breadth of the country for matches.

“This summer has been non-stop. Not just for me, but Adie (Towers – general manager/secretary) and we have brought a lady in called Trudi, who is doing the admin. It’s been a lot of hard work for a lot of people.

“The players might not be full-time, but it is expected that the admin staff are.

“But we have no real base and until we get the (clubhouse) building put in place, we won’t have. It’s all very disjointed and everyone is working from home and there’s plenty of long phone calls which makes communication quite difficult. It’s not like being in an office when you can stick your head around the next door and speak to someone! It’s just everything such as how to segregate games and pressure of getting the ground ready for the start of the season and the looming deadline of March 31.

“We also have been busy tidying-up and getting terraces clear and the crash barriers in place. We have also replaced the perimeter fencing.

“It looks tidier, but we need to get some segregation points in.”

Rogerson and plenty of others with Guiseley AFC close to their hearts have been putting in the overtime to get the club ship-shape for their new adventure.

Despite the graft, you sense it is still a labour of love and a challenge everyone is embracing.

“It was supposed to be a hobby, but it’s become almost a full-time job. Not just for me as manager Mark (Bower) is working hard as are the admin staff.

“We still want to maintain that family atmosphere and the vast majority of people are still doing stuff on a voluntary basis.

“It’s great for the ethos of the club and means a lot.

“We have doubled season-ticket sales and will enhance crowds and sponsorship opportunities, particularly with TV here, while the budget also looks as balanced as it ever has done.”

Kevan Hurst.

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