Saturday 27th July 2019 ko 19.45
United Counties League Division One
BURTON PARK WANDERERS 4 (Allen 8 Thomson 15 20 Dalby 49)
Dalby missed penalty 45
LUTTERWORTH ATHLETIC 0
The rains returned as the hop reached the fourth game in Burton Latimer, near Kettering. If football isn’t your thing then the town is where Weetabix is made but if non-league football is your passion then it also is where Latimer Park is. The ground is home to perennial UCL strugglers Burton Park Wanderers, or is it?
It certainly was the case when I visited 8 years ago for an abandoned game, but when Kettering Town lost Rockingham Road in 2011 and moves to firstly Nene Park, the vacant former home of Rushden & Diamonds then Corby Town’s Steel Park proved financially ruinous they moved to groundshare here in 2013.
Now if you clicked the earlier link, you’ll have had the same thought as I did as the coach pulled into the car park.
“How on earth has the junior club in a groundshare managed to get a ground that wasn’t up to Step 6 standards up to Step 2 National League North grading?”
The answer is tragic if you are Burton Park Wanderers. Let’s look at how the vast majority of groundhoppers deal with groundshares, as its how GroundhopUK decides which club gets to host in these circumstances. We simply pick either the owner of the ground or the primary tenant. So when the Burton Park Wanderers came up as a potential host club we assumed they were still the primary tenant and included them on that basis. And if that really matters to you then you have my apology as we got it wrong. But for the avoidance of any doubt, I’m so glad we went for a Wanderers game.
When Kettering moved in as sub-tenants the landlord soon spotted that the ground was suddenly worth a greater rent, and so put the cost up to a point that it became uneconomic for Wanderers to be primary tenant in their own home. The solution was fairly simple, the tenancy was flipped allowing Kettering to improve Latimer Park as primary tenant while allowing Wanderers to continue to play here. But even then there was a sting.
As secondary tenant Burton Park Wanderers lost the use of the clubhouse, as quite a few groundhoppers found out when they tried to shelter there before the game. The club were gifted a “Terrapin” style building which sits at the corner used as “their” entrance. Talk about not being welcome in your own home!!
Now the transformation of Latimer Park is remarkable, and even more so when you consider that Kettering have plans to move their first XI out when they can build a ground of their own. They’ll leave the non-first XI teams at Latimer Park, and Burton Park Wanderers’ tenure on that basis does seem to be reasonably secure, but as you can see, the caveats are many and varied!
So even if Latimer Park is now National League compliant and a far cry from what it was 8 years ago one thing hadn’t changed. Last time I was here I found Burton Park Wanderers to be a thoroughly decent club. I wasn’t around for as long as anyone would have wanted, but then and now they were good company and were wonderful hosts here. Who couldn’t have enjoyed that curry as the rain fell?
For a club used to struggle it was also good to see them win, Lutterworth Athletic looked a shadow of the side I’d seen put away relegation-doomed Stewarts & Lloyds back in May. I left with the rain still falling but with the sense that bringing the hop here did Burton Park Wanderers some good, and if that meant the rules got bent, then so be it.