‘Don’t let it bounce’: Raynes Park Vale in the community
Raynes Park Vale Football Club have been part of the community since 1928. Starting from humble beginnings as the working-class Southern Railway Football Section, the club has provided football for the local community for almost a century. Home was originally around the corner at Raynes Park Sports Ground until a merger and relocation in 1995 saw the club move to its current residence on Grand Drive. Always within walking distance of the high-street, the club is synonymous with Raynes Park and its people
Following the first article in the Don’t Let It Bounce series: ‘Raynes Park Vale’s non-league journey’, this piece focuses on the Community. This article considers just a few ways that this volunteer-driven club docks in with the local community.
The Youth Teams
“I learned all about life with a ball at my feet” Ronaldinho
The Club has competed in local youth football leagues for decades, providing competition, fun and friendship for local boys, and more recently girls, of all ages.
Raynes Park Vale has sixteen teams from Under 8 to Under 18. The club strives to provide an opportunity for players of all abilities to play in a team, having several teams in some age groups. This means that over 200 young members of the local community enjoy their football donning in the blue and yellow of the Vale.
As a Charter Standard Club, all teams have a qualified coach and all managers and volunteers are CRB checked. This is a requirement for the Club to maintain our FA Charter Standard, but also fits in with the Club ethos of being a family Club providing opportunities for players of all abilities to play football in a safe and enjoyable environment.
Supporting these youngsters as they set out on their journey to become the next Rapinoe or Ronaldo are their families. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the masses descend on Grand Drive to support their little superstar. Sparking friendships and connections aplenty, the Vale is a hive of activity.
On the Pitch – A springboard and a safety net
Raynes Park Vale is positioned in the exciting wilderness that is English semi-professional football. More organised than your standard Saturday league fixture but also comfortably detached from the dizzying heights of professional football, players of all shapes, sizes, and abilities congregate.
Local players dropping down the leagues following spells at higher clubs, others looking for the springboard to launch their football career, Raynes Park Vale provides a platform for all.
Local lad Paul Osew has recently demonstrated the latter scenario, moving from the Vale to sign a professional contract with AFC Wimbledon in 2019 and rumoured to reach Championship heights in the near future.
Others, heading in the opposite direction, find a soft landing at Raynes Park. Dropping out of the cutthroat football academy system, the Vale provides local players with the opportunity to regroup, learn the whys and wherefores of men’s football, and go again!
The Vale is proud to be able to provide a platform for local players to demonstrate their talents.
Off the Pitch – More than football, a place of fun and friendship
Off the pitch, football clubs of all shapes and sizes have for a long time been a great place for community members to come together. Raynes Park is no different and volunteers truly are the beating heart of this sports club.
Maintaining the grounds, running the clubhouse, and even chipping in with the DIY, local volunteers keep the Vale going. Alongside the week-to-week running of the club, it provides a number of local volunteers with a sense of purpose. Spending time at Raynes Park in any capacity offers a place as part of a family. You’re not just treated as a teammate or club-goer, but a friend. Meeting new people and socialising with friends is a significant part of what makes Raynes Park great for so many. Get in touch with Raynes Park if you want to become part of the family!
In recent years the Vale has become a popular spot for visitors from further afield, specifically the non-league groundhopper community. Rather than religiously visiting the same team, ground-hoppers visit many different stadia to see a variety of teams. In doing so, they get the opportunity to experience the new faces and quirks that make each club unique. The furthest registered visitor to the club this season was from New Zealand, which will be hard to beat!
Partnerships with local companies
Football is becoming more commercialised and this is true in non-league football too. Some clubs have rich owners and big dreams that they use to keep clubs afloat. Others are required to pursue the more traditional sponsorship method.
In keeping with Raynes Park’s campaign to return the club to its community-based roots, the Vale has made huge strides in recent months to connect with local businesses. Establishing partnerships with local brewery By The Horns, timber and building merchants Fulham Timber and local radio station Radio Jackie
These partnerships are blossoming and have provided another great connection with the local community.
If you would be interested in partnering with the Vale, please take a look at the sponsorship options and get in touch.
Continually strengthening the connection
Raynes Park Vale Football Club are continually striving to broaden and develop their connection with the community and have lots of fun things in the pipeline. These include:
- Opening fitness training sessions to the community to support local people in achieving their fitness goals
- Supporting the local allotment through extra hands and increasing the space available
- Utilising the diverse knowledge and expertise of the player group to support local charities
Continue to follow Raynes Park Vale on this ‘fly on the wall’ series of non-League football. We will be providing a unique angle on non-League football. Whilst covering the basics, we’ll be looking at their place in stories from the terraces and team-bonding.
As a taster of what is to come, here is what to expect over the next few weeks:
- Player profiles with a twist – Get to know more about the players than just football
- The first day of pre-season – What condition have the players returned in?
- Charity day – How will the club help football beyond borders reach 2020 miles on what would have been the Euro 2020 final day