If you live in or close to Ebbsfleet, major changes are on their way. And if you’re a supporter of Ebbsfleet United, the changes are all good.
Fans of what used to be Gravesend & Northfleet FC, would be the first to admit that their corner of north Kent isn’t exactly the most glamorous of locations, with its motorways, pylons and disused chalk pits.
True, nearby Bluewater has made it a mecca for shoppers in recent years, and you hop on a train to Paris from Ebbsfleet International Station.
But in the next ten years, the area will be transformed by several massive developments– with the football club playing its part.
[pullquote align=”right”]”We want to make a signature stand, to show people that live in this area, and elsewhere, that we’re ambitious not just on the pitch, but off the pitch as well.” –
Dr Abdulla Al-Humaidi[/pullquote]
First is the proposal by Paramount Pictures to site a theme park in the heart of the Swanscombe peninsula, with the Hollywood studio no doubt attracted by its excellent transport links and accessibility for millions of visitors.
Second is the government’s plans to build a new ‘garden city’ at Ebbfleet, with 15,000 new homes and a whole new community in the pipeline – surely music to the ears of Ebbsfleet Utd as it seeks to attract new fans.
The club is also doing its part to regenerate the area, with plans to redevelop its stadium at Stonebridge Road into the kind of high-spec venue that might just turn potential supporters into regulars attendees.
The £3.5 million plan includes a new main stand and extensive off-the-pitch facilities, eventually bringing the capacity up to 6,000, including 2,000 seats.
Ebbsfleet currently play in the Conference South, the sixth tier of English football, but have ambitions to come up in the world at the same time as the area itself.
The chairman of the KEH Sports Ltd, the Kuwaiti company which owns Ebbsfleet, Dr Abdulla Al-Humaidi said: “We want to make this football club financially sustainable and without these investments, it would never become financially sustainable.
“The aim is to remove dependency on external sources of financing. We hope, with this as a start [the new main stand] and then the other three stands later on, it will become a financially sustainable club.
“Also, we want to make a signature stand, to show people that live in this area – and elsewhere – that we’re ambitious not just on the pitch, but off the pitch as well.”
The most important thing now is for Ebbsfleet United to seize the opportunity to grow as a club and move onto bigger things. They have the backing of a wealthy consortium, and not many conference teams can say that.
As a local resident, I think this could be a fantastic way in which to build on the foundations of an historic club, founded in 1893, to ensure it is prepared for life in the Football League – if that dream ever became a reality.
It promises to be a decade of growth for an area rich in potential, and hopefully its football club can achieve its own potential at the same time.