Name change for Gravesend & Northfleet ?

Friday 24th February 2006

Football chiefs have confirmed they may change the name of Gravesend and Northfleet FC and rename it 'Ebbsfleet FC', reports

The historic move is part of an ambitious project to tap in to the massive revenue potential of the Thames Gateway.

Gravesend and Northfleet FC (GNFC) or 'The Fleet' to their army of faithful fans plan to build a self-sufficient club for generations to come.

It would be the first time the name has changed since it was formed in 1946 as a result of a merger between Northfleet United, set up in 1890, and Gravesend United, formed in 1893.

With thousands of new homes already springing up in quarry sites in and around the borough bosses claim the opportunity is too good to miss.

They have also tabled a business plan to increase profits and put the club in a position to make a challenge and transition to the Football League.

Speaking exclusively to the Gravesend Reporter, chairman Brian Killcullen, whose club entertain Scarborough at Stonebridge Road on Saturday, said: "Whilst it goes against the grain, we have always felt that one day we may need to change our name to Ebbsfleet.

"Jason Botley (vice chairman) and I are from Gravesend and we fully understand some fans would not be happy, but in the overall scheme of things it may be what we have to do.

"This is one for the future, but in 10 years time there is a chance this area will be a city known as Ebbsfleet. Luckily our nickname is 'The Fleet' anyway so that identity would continue."

The club is in talks with financial institutions in London to help raise long-term funding and they are confident a major development partner will be unveiled soon.

By strengthening their capital base they hope to achieve promotion, development of their newly acquired leisure facility and the building of a new stadium.

The Stonebridge Road ground, which has a 4,200 capacity, incorporates a car park, offices, club shop, refreshment facilities, board room and social club.

GNFC switched to full-time football this season with 21 players in the first team squad. There is also a reserve team, U-19s, ladies and youth teams starting at under-sevens. Youth sides fall under the umbrella of the club's Football in the Community Scheme.

Their leisure and training facility is a mile from Stonebridge Road and incorporates a members' bar and large function hall, six pitches (three senior, one junior and two six-a-side), bowls green, four tennis courts, changing facilities, table tennis hut and ample parking.

Talks are thought to be progressing rapidly with the council and the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) concerning the new stadium.

The club is at the heart of Kent Thameside, which is part of the Thames Gateway development in which the Government is due to spend £6billion. It should provide 50,000 new job opportunities, over one million square foot of commercial space and 21,000 new homes.

Stonebridge Road is just 200 metres away from the new international station in Ebbsfleet, due for completion early next year. Passengers will be able to get to London in 16 minutes by train.

Mr Kilcullen added: "Too many clubs, and we include ourselves in this, have been reliant on directors' financial support and pulling rabbits out of hats to see their clubs survive.

"One of the reasons myself and Jason Botley got involved with the club six years ago was so we could see the benefits of where we are located. We wanted to turn the club into a financially self-sustainable operation.

"As a board of directors we have put the foundations in place and if we can get the necessary injection of capital we believe this aim is now achievable.

"The reason we are all involved is because we love the football club and we want success on the pitch. However, to achieve and sustain that you need to run an operation that has income streams not linked to football and that is what we are now doing.

"We never take our eye off what we want to do on the pitch, but also never stop working separately at generating income opportunities.

"The great advantage about us from both the football and business perspective is our unique location. We are one of the best located football clubs in the country.

"Outside the Premiership, which is driven by TV money, and a few league clubs, who have very large traditional fan bases, find me another football club in the UK with our potential? Plus find me many clubs that are not laden down with debt."

What do you think?
Please send us your views on this idea by clicking "Contact us", under a title: The Fleet

We will need to know your name, age, where you live and how many years you have been supporting the club, including your good and bad times following "The Fleet".