Arsonists reignite discussion over future of ground

Fire at Ford Meadow, the old home of Buckingham Town Football Club
Fire at Ford Meadow, the old home of Buckingham Town Football Club

The fire which swept through Buckingham Town’s historic former football ground has re-ignited discussion over the future of the site.

A fierce blaze gutted the derelict pavilion at the former Buckingham Town football ground on Wednesday night.

Firefighters from six stations battled the blaze, but the building could not be saved.

Police are treating the incident as arson and a 24-year-old man, a 16-year-old boy, a 17-year-old girl all from Buckingham and a 15-year-old boy from Stowe have been arrested and are in custody.

Following the fire, a woman had to be treated for smoke inhalation, and residents were told to keep windows closed.

Buckingham Town played at the Ford Meadow site from 1883, longer than Manchester United have played at old Trafford.

The club moved from the ground around three years ago when a new owner did not renew their lease, but many fans and players still remember playing there with fondness and a hint of sadness.

Club manager Chris Robson said: “I started my career there and it was a sad thing to wake up to.

“Obviously we haven’t played there for a few years, but especially the old players that have been here for many years have fond memories.”

The site has since been bought by the University of Buckingham, and bosses say that they are working to redevelop the land.

It had been thought that Buckingham Town may one day return to its former home, but club chairman Vince Hyde said that talks to that end have stopped between the club and the university.

He said: “It is a great shame that the club cannot still use the site, but we have not heard from the University for some time.

“Unfortunately nothing is going on there at the moment, and things like this (the arson) are bound to happen while ever the site is empty.

“We went to Winslow for a while but are now based in Bletchley, because of the name of the club, which is very well regarded Bletchley recently won £80,000 worth of funding for building works here.

“It’s a shame that this money could not have come back to Buckingham, to create a space that the whole community could use.”

“It was always the intention to bring the team back to Buckingham.

“There are a couple of new housing estates and we have had discussions them with regards to the football pitches.”

But University of Buckingham chiefs claim they do have plans for the former ground to be enjoyed by the community.

University of Buckingham Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor David Billington said: “Although we realise how frustrating it is for everyone, we can’t hold meaningful talks with the community while we are still raising funds to bring the site back into use.

“The University has already removed all the overgrown fir trees and spent a considerable amount on general renovation of the site. The project certainly won’t be set back by the fire.

“We hope that before long Ford Meadow will be a first class facility for both the

University and the community, just as we share our playing fields at Gawcott with Moretonville Football Club.”