Bedfordshire, Brache Sparta, Foxdell Recreation Ground, Harpenden Town, Luton, M1, Non League, Spartan South Midlands
With the football season over prematurely due to the Coronavirus Pandemic I’m in the unusual position of actually having this blog up to date! So to keep the content coming, and for something to do, I’ll do some old grounds and games where there’s a story to tell.
Tuesday April 14th 2008 ko 19.30
Spartan South Midlands League Division One
BRACHE SPARTA 0
HARPENDEN TOWN 1 (Gregory 84)
Entry & Programme £2
There are some times when you embark on the endless road that is groundhopping, that you find a club that somehow doesn’t quite fit in. That shouldn’t be seen as pejorative in any sense, but when you arrive at a ground and you know what level of the game you’re going to see you soon get a rough idea of what to expect. This short story is about one of those exceptions to the rule.
If you didn’t know Brache is a district of Luton but Brache’s ground isn’t there. You may remember The Brache as the former home of the defunct Vauxhall Motors (Luton), Crawley Green’s new ground and Luton Town’s training ground. Yes, that Brache is in the right place!
The Sparta bit was added because someone at the club admired Sparta Prague and in 1973 the club gained use of Foxdell Recreation Ground. Okay it wasn’t in Brache, but in the west of the town with the roar of the M1 clearly audible. Foxdell lacked floodlights so Brache were forced to groundshare at Hitchin Town from 1993 to 1995 while planning permission was eventually gained
They found success back at Foxdell winning the Spartan South Midlands League’s Premier North Division in 1998 but from then on the slow decline began. I caught them in the Step 6 Division One, but the issues the club had were obvious.
The first and most obvious that while Foxdell had lights and a stand, in no way shape or form was it enclosed. That made taking a gate impossible, which apart from the financial implications gave the club a reputation for low gates. That stemmed from their habit of charging entry by programme but putting the programmes behind the bar. If you didn’t want a programme, you needn’t pay and you weren’t counted. That said, 11 was a fair estimate on the night of how many people were watching.
With crowds like that, something had to give, and eventually it did. In 2010 the club were relegated into that idiosyncrasy in Bedfordshire only, the Spartan South Midland League Division Two. They had one season there finishing second-to-bottom before folding amid claims of gross mis-management.
The club were revived in 2014 in the Bedfordshire County League, but it was a brief flirtation. The club suffered two 24-0 defeats and two 22-0 defeats, and racked up 4 separate points deductions failing to fulfil fixtures and fielding ineligible players. They were gone by Christmas and sadly have not reappeared since.
Foxdell is still in use by Bedfordshire County League outfit Luton Allstars, you may remember them as the visiting team at Lancot Park during the last Bedfordshire Hop. There is only one small catch, they don’t use Foxdell for first team games.
Brache Sparta never played higher than Step 5 for the entirety of their existance. Their one championship came when there were 2 champions- the SSML had a Premier North and Premier South for the first year of its existence. But they were a quirk, a one-off and for my money non league football is just that little bit poorer for them not being in it.