Facility users and board members stand outside entrance to cut the ribbon

RECTORY PARK GRAND OPENING

Jim Taylor
Middlesex FA staged the grand opening of its new purpose-built headquarters at Rectory Park, Northolt on Thursday last, 12th Sep, 2019.

RECTORY PARK GRAND OPENING

Middlesex FA staged the grand opening of its new purpose-built headquarters at Rectory Park, Northolt on Thursday last, 12th Sep, 2019. This event marked what was arguably the most significant happening in the Association’s history, since it came into being in 1883.

The day’s proceedings successfully conveyed the vibrant atmosphere at Rectory Park. The enthusiasm of the four speakers and of everyone else involved in the event was very apparent.

MARK CLEMMIT, the BBC TV and radio presenter, was an excellent MC. Mark gave a brief resume of the previous landmarks in the history of Middlesex FA. It was initially a “cottage industry” depending upon volunteers working from their own homes. Our first (and only other) HQ, a semi- detached house in Roxborough Road, Harrow, was purchased in 1975 and subsequently was gradually converted to accommodate our increasing needs. Mark Frost became our first paid official, when he was appointed as Executive Officer in 1992. In 1998, Peter Clayton became our first paid County Secretary. In 2003 Charlotte Edwards was appointed as our first Women’s Football Development Officer and Barbara Bivens became our first female chairman, when she was elected as Chairman of the Youth Division. We celebrated our 125th Anniversary in 2008 with a Gala Dinner at the Wembley Plaza Hotel.

Mark paid tribute to our former County Development Manager, Stuart Allen, who masterminded the project from start to finish. Mark considered that the project was £5m well spent and felt that a bright future awaited Middlesex FA.

He then ran a video film showing the transformation of the site from a playing field to a modern football centre, with two full size artificial pitches and associated facilities, social and educational space, meeting rooms and superb office facilities.

JOHN TAYLOR, the MFA Chairman, then took to the stage. John explained why the move to Rectory Park was so important to the Association. In recent years we have evolved in many ways. We have moved from being a local governing body for adult and youth 11 a side football to being an organisation responsible for developing grassroots football in many formats, reflecting the changing structur of our national game. Youth mini-soccer, women’s and girls’ football, disability football and walking football are now within the MFA orbit. We also have other new responsibilities, including education, inclusion and diversity, facilities development and safeguarding.

Therefore, our Harrow HQ was no longer appropriate for the way in which we wanted to operate as a modern 21st century county football association. We wanted a hub, from which we could promote football activity and hold our own events. We required a comfortable state of the art HQ for our staff to operate in and a centre from which we could serve the diverse community which exists in our county.

John also paid tribute to Stuart Allen and his incredible vision, which brought the project to life. He expressed his gratitude to Ealing Council for granting us a 125 year lease on the site and for being incredibly useful partners throughout the process. They were a tower of strength, invariably finding a way to move the project forward when the going got tough.

Middlesex FA funded its contribution to the project through the sale of its Harrow HQ. Our funding partners were the Football Foundation, The Football Association and the London Marathon Trust. Rectory Park is one of the first hubs to be developed as part of The FA’s Parklife programme – a nationwide initiative to help local communities access high quality pitches and thereby increase participation. LK2 were our project architects and Life Build the main contractors. Our partner clubs in the process have been Brentford, Queens Park Rangers and London Eagles. The project was completed on time and within budget.

Our project board consisted of John, Colin Stupack, Stuart Allen, Peter Clayton, Steve Grover, Andrew Morton and Leigh O’Connor. John paid particular tribute to Colin Stupack, our chief negotiator, whose commercial expertise and business acumen was so important.

John also envisages a bright future at our new HQ. Even in the short time that we have been in residence at Rectory Park the positive perception of Middlesex FA has improved. We are providing more opportunities for participation and education as well as performing our traditional governance role.

Rectory Park has become a vibrant hub for Middlesex football. It is commonplace to visit the site in the evening and find both of our floodlit pitches and each of our classrooms in use, a meeting in progress in the boardroom and the café full of satisfied and well-fed customers.

Our workforce numbers have increased, with our dedicated Centre staff managing the premises around the clock, dovetailing with the Association staff. There has been a great determination amongst our staff, in the first year at Rectory Park, for the events that they host to be the best that they can possibly be.

We intend to continue to provide playing opportunities for participants from our partner clubs and for the Middlesex football community. We also aim to realise the commercial potential of the site, increase our daytime usage and to further develop our links with the Middlesex football family and with the local community. We will continue to improve the skills of our players, referees, coaches and administrators, in an inspiring environment.

LEIGH O’CONNOR, the MFA Chief Executive spoke about the impact of Rectory Park on the Association’s business. He compared the facilities with the limiting conditions at Harrow and expressed his delight at our ability to showcase our operations as we move forward.

He illustrated the positive impact on the staff members with a video film in which some of them spoke about their new work environment. These cameos reinforced the perception that the place is undoubtedly buzzing with energy and enthusiasm. Apart from their improved working facilities, our staff now have a base from which they can more easily access the local community and engage with our clubs, coaches, volunteers and supporters.

Since the “soft launch” opening of the site in July 2018, we have rebranded as an organisation. We now have 4000 members. In our first year at Rectory Park we received 30,000 visits.

COUNCILLOR BASSAM MAHFOUZ is the Ealing Council Cabinet Member for Leisure and Finance. He is also the local councillor for Northolt West End, the ward which contains Rectory Park.

Bassam is very enthusiastic about the project. He said that he is proud and honoured to have Middlesex FA as a partner. Rectory Park represents a very worthwhile investment which satisfies an ongoing need within the Borough for a sports and community hub.

He too, paid tribute to Stuart’s work and to the MFA Board that had supported him. Bassam anticipates a long and fruitful relationship going forward. He said “football achieves what politics never could”!

We then proceeded to the ceremony of “cutting the ribbon”. This was performed by Middlesex FA President, John Davies, who was supported by former Presidents, Derek Mennell and Jim Taylor.

The assembled company then had the opportunity to witness some interesting activity on the main pitch, provided by Uxbridge Amblers Walking Football Club, Ealing Mencap and Hendon FC Mental Health Group, before enjoying the delicious buffet lunch provided by the Centre staff.

cLICK HERE FOR A FULL SELECTION OF PHOTOS, COURTESY OF CHRIS BENN