If you’ve ever driven into Maidenhead from the M4, you would have almost certainly passed Braywick Park. Tucked away behind a small row of trees, the area is home to Maidenhead’s rugby and athletics clubs, a Toby Carvery, a driving range and what will soon be a new leisure centre. However, with yesterday’s announcement, the park could be the new home of Maidenhead United Football Club.
The relocation of the club has been a rumour for a while, with the current site at York Road being a key target for property developers. Access problems have hindered the ground’s development, an issue that has become more prominent with the club’s recent success and rise up the football pyramid. With high-rise flats being built around the town centre, soon the club will be suffocated from any further development to York Road.
The move to Braywick Park makes sense for a number of reasons: firstly, it will allow the club some room in negotiations. A stubborn approach and a refusal to move may seem preferable in the short-term, but if the club is going to be all-but forced out in the future by surrounding property developers, it is both financially and practically logical to move away from York Road whilst there is still room for manoeuvre.
Secondly, Braywick is the closest location to the town centre behind the current ground. It’s a 10-15 minute walk from the train station, and all but the same distance from York Road itself. Maidenhead United would remain relatively close to the town, albeit not in the heart of it.
Finally, a new stadium would make complying to ground regulations easier in the future. Although the current site complies with Vanarama National League requirements, further development is limited by the neighbouring homes and businesses. Quite frankly, York Road is nearing the end of its potential redevelopment, which could become a problem if league regulations change or the club continues to rise up the pyramid.
‘A great leap into the unknown’
Of course, a ground move is a great leap into the unknown. A new stadium requires money, and lots of it for that matter. This large-scale investment would presumably come from the sale of the current site, but there will always be a risk of over-expenditure, which could hamper the club’s performances on the pitch.
Secondly, the practicalities of a move will have to be considered, and its effect on the town’s businesses and supporters of the football club. Pubs in the town centre could potentially see a loss in revenue on match days, which will have a wider effect on the town as a whole rather than the football club. Bus routes may have to change to accommodate for the move, and the A308 will require pedestrianisation to ensure safety for supporters on matchdays. A lot of planning, both financially and logistically, will be required before a move is confirmed.
But perhaps the biggest factor in the relocation debate is the history of York Road. The hallowed turf is the oldest senior football ground in the world, and attracts groundhoppers and admirers of footballing history from all over Europe. The club’s history is ingrained in the stadium, with the memories and sights of the ground being all Maidenhead United has ever known.
Around 150 years of history would be converted into something brand new – an exciting prospect for some, a heart-breaking thought for others..
What do you think about the proposals? Let us know in the comments below.
Further reading: Maidenhead United chairman Peter Griffin is holding a question and answer session at York Road on Monday 25th November. Full details here.
The Maidenhead Advertiser’s George Roberts on the initial announcement about the proposals – www.maidenhead-advertiser.co.uk.