Horsham FC - a community-based football club that is so much more than 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon
Horsham Football Club was without a permanent home and ground-sharing for more than a decade following its move from Queen Street. However, in 2019 they finally moved into their brand new facilities at Hop Oast.
Photo Credit: John Lines
Right from the outset, the fan experience (on matchday and beyond) has been a top priority for the club.
We at Visit Horsham have attended almost every home match this season. On each occasion, we have been impressed with the dedicated and enthusiastic staff and volunteers who work hard to ensure all visitors to the club have a great experience.
The first volunteers that many people visiting the Camping World Community Stadium encounter are the stewards in the Hop Oast Park and Ride Car Park. The Hop Oast stewards provide help with parking and can offer advice on bus services. Qualified Traffic Marshalls control traffic to allow visitors to cross the Worthing Road safely.
Once across the Worthing Road, fans have a short walk to the stadium where they will find further helpful stewards who will guide them towards the turnstiles.
Howard Frogley leads the team of turnstile operators who operate them in an efficient and welcoming manner — for example, matching the number of active turnstiles to the expected attendance.
Stepping out of the turnstile gives the first proper view of the ground & facilities. We often hear first-time visitors express their approval at this point.
Horsham Football Club rightly has a reputation as 'The Friendly Club,' and one of the crucial roles in this is the 'Match Day Greeter.' Chris Holmes holds this position and welcomes everyone and is available to point out the essential facilities & amenities to any visitor requiring assistance.
Two well-known volunteers located close to the turnstiles are Sue & Jim Bravery (often aided by Neil Burbidge). They sell the 50/50 Draw tickets and Match Day programmes which, for us, and a large number of fans, are essential purchases.
The 50/50 draw sees half the takings raising vital funds for the club, while the other half makes a welcome cash prize for one lucky visitor on matchday.
The matchday programme is a treasure trove of information and an absolute steal at only £2. We must admit we rarely have time to read it properly on match day but often read it over several sessions in the following days. The programme is put together by Mark Wells. It contains an excellent mix of matchday information and well-researched history and facts about the clubs involved.
Armed with our draw ticket and programme, we usually head straight to the clubhouse, which has an excellently stocked bar managed by Stadium Manager Kevin Baxter. The inclusion of a local guest ale (chosen by a supporters' poll!) is very welcome, as is the selection of gins and other spirits. A tasty variety of hot food, including vegetarian options, is available from the club kitchen managed by Horsham Football Club's chef, Phil 'Woody' Townley.
Completing the catering options is the Horsebox, which serves hot/cold drinks, as well as wrapped snacks.
The bar, the kitchen, and the Horsebox are all supported by volunteers who help to ensure a well-run and great-value catering experience on match days.
Inside the clubhouse is a well-stocked shop selling replica shirts, hats, scarves, and many other Horsham Football Club branded items.
Managing the club shop are the wives of two committee members; Fiona Bravery and Tricia Barrett. In addition to running the shop on matchdays, they are also responsible for selecting products and ordering stock.
They may not always know his name, but Mark Barrett's voice will be very familiar to Horsham Football Club's frequent visitors. Mark is the club's PA announcer making regular announcements on matchday, before, during, and after the game.
Like many of the other volunteers, Mark has spent the majority of his life involved with Horsham FC. He has progressed from being just a fan to somebody who is actively involved with the club.
Sadly Frank King, Horsham Football Club's much loved former president, passed away shortly before the completion of the new ground and facilities. Frank's involvement with the club went back to the end of the Second World War, and he had been a driving force through many of the high and lows of the following decades.
Fittingly, Horsham Football Club named their boardroom in Frank's honour. The Frank King Suite hosts match day officials, away officials, and sponsors. The hospitality is managed by Annie Raby and Jeannie Charman, who welcome guests and provide their catering needs.
Horsham Football Club's directors are present in the Frank King Suite and around the club on matchdays. The directors are recognisable and approachable. They make all feel welcome and are on hand to answer questions for would-be sponsors, volunteers, or anybody else who may wish to be involved with the club.
Two other essential matchday personnel are Club Secretary Jeff Barrett, who runs everything to do with the administration of the game itself and Head Steward Roger Charman.
The Camping World Community Stadium provides excellent spectator views from all around the ground. The 3G pitch looks attractive and provides a consistent playing surface in all weathers so that matches can take place without the worry of adverse conditions canceling the game.
As we have already mentioned, we have attended most of Horsham Football Club's home matches this season. In December, we purchased a half-season ticket and intend to buy a full one next season.
We have not yet had a chance to travel to any away matches. Fortunately, however, the detailed, real-time Twitter commentary helps us follow the games from afar. The social media feeds and the website, particularly the excellent post-match reports, make it very easy to keep up to date with Horsham FC remotely.
The online content is down to the hard work and professionalism of the media team, which is led by Matt Jones, who has a degree in Freelance Sports Journalism. The Horsham FC website dates back to 2004 when it was first set up by Mark Wells, who has since served the committee for over a decade, including a turn as Chair.
Matt Jones and Matt Dale usually produce the match reports. Daryl Jacobs often support them. Jack Everley creates much of the Twitter content.
Like many football fans, the final whistle typically generates some sort of emotion for us. Depending upon the team's performance, the result, and its consequences, this could be joy, despair, or anything in between. Regardless of the final score, however, we usually enjoy a further drink in the clubhouse after the game. The post-match atmosphere is always friendly, with both sets of teams and supporters mingling in the bar.
The post-match drinks have also enabled us to sit down with the club's officials, staff, and volunteers. We have discovered the amount of work going on behind the scenes and the incredible people that make that happen.
Our first contact with Horsham Football Club was with Paul Osborn. Paul is the Commercial Director and is a visible, approachable, and friendly figure on matchday. Among his several roles, Paul is responsible is for sponsorship and advertising opportunities. We at Visit Horsham are HFC sponsors, and while setting this up, we were delighted to discover that many of our Visit Horsham members are also sponsors. Having spoken to several of them, we realised that while they would benefit from the exposure that this would bring, their primary motivation was their passion for the club. They simply wanted to contribute and be involved.
Wanting to be involved and voluntarily donating time, experience, and skills to the club is a common theme among everybody we have spoken with at Horsham Football Club. One of the best examples of this is Sean Bravery, Club Committee Chairman. Sean has been key in recruiting and encouraging volunteers. He plays a crucial role in coordinating the activities of many people involved with Horsham Football Club.
The Club Committee consists of 16 volunteers, the majority of whom are in full-time employment elsewhere. All have vital roles to play and are fortunate to have other expert volunteers to draw on for advice such as Will Ranner. Will has been advising a team of committee members on how we can to improve the club's marketing approach.
After so many years without a permanent home, Horsham Football Club has quickly settled into its new ground. In our opinion, Hop Oast has proved to be the ideal location. The way that the club manages matchdays has resulted in minimal environmental impact in terms of traffic or noise, etc.
From a visitor's perspective, the ground is a delightful environment. There are relatively few vehicles on site, and the entire complex is surrounded by trees, with the clubhouse being the only building in sight.
It's clear that the local community has responded favourably and has welcomed Horsham Football Club's arrival at Hop Oast. Despite being newly promoted into the Isthmian League Premier Division, Horsham has the second-highest attendance figures in the league. The Only club with higher attendance is Worthing, a town that has roughly twice the population of Horsham.
Sean summarised the comprehensive information he sent to us by saying, "Horsham FC is so much more than just 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon. We are able, and keen, to encourage as many people to get involved with a club that has their football family and the local community, close to their hearts".
We are a little more than half-way through the first season at Hop Oast. We have had more than enough time to observe the positive impact the Camping World Community Stadium has had on local people and the wider football community.
Horsham Football Club has a long and proud history, and we think it has a long and bright future ahead of it!
Horsham FC is always looking to enhance the matchday experience for their visitors; to do this, they are always looking for new people to get involved and help out. If you are interested in getting involved as a matchday volunteer or are interested in helping the club develop both internally, and within the community, please contact committee chair Sean Bravery at firstname.lastname@example.org or text 07909541134
In the paragraphs above, we have tried to summarise our personal matchday experience when visiting as fans. We have included the names of people we have encountered at the ground, as well as those that we understand have essential roles in ensuring the best possible fan experience.
We are also aware that there are many other people behind the scenes that also play important roles. We do not wish to leave anybody out so have reproduced here the names and positions currently listed on www.horshamfc.co.uk/club-officials
This list includes the Football Teams' management, coaching, and support staff, which we have not covered in this article. Of course, there would be no matchday experience at all without them, but we will leave that for another article!
Chairman – Kevin Borrett
Vice-Chairman & CEO – John Lines
Finance Director – Mark Butler
Commercial Director – Paul Osborn
Directors – Jeff Barrett, David Hillier
Club & Match Secretary –Jeff Barrett (Tel: 07712 888980)
Youth Secretary & Child Welfare Officer – Annie Raby
Youth Development Manager – Ivan Raby
Health & Safety Officer – Roger Charman
Community Liaison Officer – Ian Burlinson
Press & Social Media Officer – Matt Jones
Club Committee Chairman – Sean Bravery
Website – Mark Wells and Matt Dale
Programme Editor – Mark Wells
Commercial Manager – Jonathan Kenworthy
Trustees – Alan Baker, Don Burstow, Clive Edwards
Club shop – Fiona Bravery & Tricia Barrett
Football Development Co-ordinator – Craig Brewster
First Team Manager – Dominic Di Paola
Assistant manager -Adam Westwood
Goalkeeping coach – Stuart Owens
Coach – Jimmy Punter
Physio – Steph Apps
Kit Man – Darren Etheridge
U23s – Manager Mark Hawthorne Coach Sam Jones Development Secretary Shaun Scott (Tel: 07522 490484)
U16s (Mid-Sussex Youth League) – Manager Dixie Laker Coaches Christian Williams, Danny Fuller, Paul Brown
U15s Amber (Mid-Sussex Youth League) – Manager Tony Massimo Coaches Steve Bridle
U15s Green (Arun & Chichester League) – Manager Ian Scott Coaches Rob Carter, John Symonds
U14s (Mid-Sussex Youth League) – Manager Alex Bethell Coaches Lee Maguire, Ross Butterfill
U13s (Arun & Chichester League) – Manager Ben Pugh Coaches Matt Ayling
U12s (Arun & Chichester League) – Manager Sam Jones Coach Matt Robinson
U11s (Arun & Chichester League) – Manager Barry Ashton Coaches Jason Grubb, Graham Duvergier
Club Committee – Annie Raby, Mark Wells, Sam Borrett, Jeanie Charman, Roger Charman, Joe Clarke, Ray Farrell, Howard Frogley, Nigel Smithers, Matt Dale, Sean Bravery, Jeff Barrett, Mark Barrett, Paul Osborn, Jack Everley, Shaun Scott, Ian Burlinson, Ian Dunscombe