While the playoffs might be out of reach for AFC Rushden & Diamonds this season, away from the pitch things are certainly looking promising.
A host of changes have been made to their home playing facilities at Hayden Road, enabling the club to meet new FA Ground Grading regulations.
The necessary ‘Category C’ stipulations have all been met prior to the March 31 deadline, thanks to the fantastic fundraising efforts of the club’s supporters and commercial partners.
While the recently unveiled 156-seater stand to the left of the Peter De Banke terrace will be the noticeable addition, the reconfiguration of the home and away changing rooms, newly installed officials dressing rooms, press seats and turnstile unit were equally important as the club passed the ground grading inspection.
Structural changes to the changing rooms were ordered to abide by new size guidelines, while there was also a requirement to separate the former unisex officials changing facility.
Fire protection provisions have also been fitted throughout, as per the Ground Grading Green Guide.
One company which has played a significant role in the development has been local construction firm Mick George Ltd, which not only donated £30,000 towards the upgrades but also provided £4,000 of complimentary materials for the foundations of the Peter De Banke Terrace when that was originally installed.
Club treasurer Matt Ward said: “Hayden Road was desperately in need of modernisation and the improvements have made a world of difference to the ground, both in terms of compliance and user experience.
“We’re very grateful to Mick George Ltd for the multiple contributions that they’ve made to this project.”
Despite the £75,000 spent by the club 12 months ago, little went towards improving supporter experience.
But the recent changes most definitely address that, and have ensured that the club will be able to compete in the league next season when the new guidelines come in to play.
Marketing director at Mick George Ltd Stuart Costello said: “Having sponsorship connections with two professional football clubs we recognise the importance that local grassroot clubs in aiding the development of emerging talent, so we’re always pleased if we’re able to play any part in that.
“The fact that AFC Rushden & Diamonds are now permitted to continue playing within the current FA League structure is great news.”