The four candidates standing in Kettering in the General Election have had their say on the Poppies’ hopes of returning to the town.
The Poppies’ Supporters Trust wrote to Philip Hollobone, Mick Scrimshaw, Rob Reeves and Suzanna Austin to find out their views on Kettering Town’s ground situation.
The club plays in Burton Latimer and has not played in the town since leaving their Rockingham Road home in 2011.
Green Party candidate Mr Reeves says that, if elected, making sure the club returns to their spiritual home would be his top priority.
He said: “Local sport is incredibly important to me as well as, I believe, to the town as a whole.
“As a teenager, I played cricket and rugby for Kettering at junior level and also played football in the Weetabix League.
“As well as the sheer enjoyment it gave me, as well as the obvious health benefits it gives to young people, I think it taught me a lot about respect and teamwork and it also opened me up to a whole new friendship group.
“Although I still play the occasional game of five-a-side I’m much more of a spectator these days, but I enjoy watching sport as much as I enjoyed playing it.
“At the 2015 General Election I met Ritchie Jeune to talk about his vision for the club.
“I also stated publicly that bringing KTFC back to Rockingham Road would be one of my top priorities for the town if elected and would be so again in 2017.
“I remember watching matches at Rockingham Road on a Saturday afternoon, and walking up Britannia Road on the way back home to the house where my parents still live now, just in time to hear the other results come in from across the country.
“I want children in this town to have the opportunities in making those same special memories that I had.
“Furthermore, from a Green perspective, returning to Rockingham Road makes even more sense – why knock down a great football ground, when we have a football team looking for a football ground?
“I think that a local football team is fundamental to the character and identity of a town and would 100 per cent be behind securing the Poppies a permanent home in Kettering and, as long as supporters want that home to be Rockingham Road, I will support them in that fight.”
Labour candidate Mick Scrimshaw said: “As you perhaps already know I have spoken publicly to give my support to the idea of Kettering Town FC moving back into Kettering on more than one occasion, and you may remember managed to get the leader of Kettering Council to agree to hold talks with the club to see if there was any help they could offer.
“I understand that the football club is a massively important part of our local community and part of the town’s history and culture, and as such an asset to the town itself.
“If elected to be Kettering’s MP I would offer to meet directly with the club to offer any help, support or influence I could, as well as continue to work with local politicians of any party and others to try and help bring about a move back to Kettering which is something as a local resident myself I strongly wish to happen.”
Liberal Democrat hopeful Suzanna Austin said: “The Poppies’ current position of having grounds outside of Kettering is something the Lib Dems have and do actively campaign on.
“Our view is that that Kettering Town deserves to have its team back and playing on a ground that will work into the future.
“We don’t just support the Poppies on matchdays, like some others we have supported the Poppies in trying to get grounds back in Kettering, only to have proposals turned down by the Conservative majority borough council.
“As an important local issue that deeply affects not only Poppies fans and supporters but also the towns of Kettering and Burton Latimer we will continue to fight to bring the Poppies back home.
“As you have said in your email you ‘believe Kettering Town FC to be a genuine asset to the constituency’ - we do as well.”
Conservative Philip Hollobone said: “I place lots of value on local sport - all sports, including rugby, hockey, cricket, tennis, and others that I can’t think of off the top of my head.
“I also place lots of importance on supporting the club, the trust, and I believe another supporters organisation in finding a solution to the ground situation.
“You will remember that I recently supported a motion at Kettering Council, which was amended and improved by the Conservative group, to hold talks regarding the potential solutions.
“This amended motion received cross-party support.”