Eastbourne Borough initially started off life as Langley Football Club in 1964 and basically played on a field. However over the years, the club has grown and although they changed their name to Eastbourne in 2001, they are very much a football club based on the community.
Eastbourne Borough is not only a football club though, it is a social club. It provides extra activities such as bowls for the community and has even been recognised for this by holding an international tournament involving England C in 2006. With these extra activities, it has helped fund the football at Eastbourne. Directly outside the ground there is also a field which has been used for the community, including youth and ladies football games.
The people involved with the club are mainly volunteers. I met Roy Young who has worked at Eastbourne as a volunteer for 15 years. He describes the club as a ‘family’. Roy is in charge of the food on matchdays and often works 9 to 5. But what is special about these volunteers is they don’t just do one job, they are heavily involved in all aspects of the football club. On my trip to Eastbourne, I even saw the chairman Len Smith with a drill in hand helping with the preparations for the match, which is unheard of especially in the Premier League and I was impressed with that. There is no millionaire behind the scenes at Eastbourne so everyone works hard and fights to see football played at Priory Lane.
Priory Lane itself is small compared to some of the other grounds in the Blue Square Premier. It has an official capacity of 4,151 and has 3 stands as well as terraced areas. The first stand as you enter the ground is called the Mick Green stand, which has been named after one of Eastbourne’s most influential players in their history. Then to the right of that there is the Peter Fountain stand and directly opposite is the River End stand. The home and away dressing rooms are the same size and come complete with Red bulls for all the players. However there is no accommodation for female officials, which will need to be reviewed as it against FA rules. The executive boxes above the dressing rooms have been designed based on the boxes at Crystal Palace and there is also a nursery which provides another linked back to the community. The tunnel leading out to the pitch is behind the goal which is unusual in modern times and the pitch has a new drainage system which cost £150,000. I have been told it does work very well considering the ground is situated on marshland. The dugouts have also seen improvements for this season. Eastbourne also boasts the most amateur programme in the league at only £2.
Lee Peskett describes Eastbourne as the ‘best pub team in the world.’ Lee has been watching Eastbourne since he was 12 and is now heavily involved in the club, having been a committee member since 2005. Lee is in charge of the press and is also a coach at under 7 level. He had supported Chelsea but now says he has ‘caught the bug’ of non-league football. When Lee started watching Eastbourne, 100 people would turn out to watch and the annual Bonfire event would attract a bigger crowd than football.
Now football is at the very heart of Eastbourne. Although once described as ‘only a park side’, Eastbourne is anything but that. It is a proper football club with loyal and passionate fans devoted to the club.