Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fisher Football Club - returning to SE16 in 2016 and celebrating this weekend

This weekend Fisher FC is planning to celebrate its upcoming return to Rotherhithe from its current Champion Hill location. 

The Fisher Football Club is synonymous with Rotherhithe, so it is just as well that it is coming back to us in 2016 after departing in 2004.  The Club has a long history.  In 1908 the Fisher Catholic Club for Boys was founded by Mr Norman Potter to provide sporting and less active recreational facilities for underprivileged boys.   It was partially funded by the Fisher Society, a Catholic society at Cambridge University that was established by Papal decree in 1895.  Rotherhithe had ties with Cambridge throughout the late 19th Century, with Clare College owning the advowson for St Mary's Rotherhithe.  The society, and by extension the club, were named for St John Fisher, a Catholic bishop who was executed on the orders of Henry VIII for refusing to comply with the reformed faith.

The Fisher Athletic club's first home was a a former engineering shop in Rose Court, Bermondsey.  In 1982 the team moved to Rotherhithe, where a dedicated stadium was built for them in the same period that the LDDC were building an extensive series of brand new residential developments accompanied by a retail centre and with plenty of recreational areas.  Based at their Rotherhithe Surrey Docks Stadium, Fisher Athletic had multiple successes throughout the 80s, but the 90s were not as good.  In 2004 the team was forced to moved to share a ground with Dulwich Hamlet whilst the Rotherhithe stadium was to undergo redevelopment.

The 2006-07 season was a bad one.  The club's financial situation became critical.  Players hadn't been paid and at the end of the season many departed.  16 consecutive defeats followed.  On 13th May 2009 unpaid income tax led to the High Court ordering that the Fisher Athletic club be wound up. 

At this stage, matters were not looking good, but in May 2009 a determined band of supporters formed themselves into a trust, renamed the club Fisher FC and began to play again, once again at Dulwich Hamlet.  They now no longer owned their Rotherhithe stadium.  But there was a definite will to return to the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe area, and in 2013 negotiations took place with the developer Fairview New Homes to convert the St Paul’s playing fields site on Salter Road into a new site for a dedicated Fisher FC stadium.  The following year, on 1st July 2014, Southwark Council approved plans for a development that would permit the return of Fisher FC.

Of course a move to a new ground is an expensive process and the club had to raise considerable funds themselves after the development plans were approved by Southwark Council.  However, as recently as August 2015 Southwark News ran a story that gave a real sense of the future of the club.  Here's an excerpt:

With just months to go until Fisher FC returns home to Rotherhithe, the club’s chairman has issued an appeal to News readers to “help build our club’s future.”

Ben Westmancott is urging fans of the exiled club to send in their ideas about how best to shape the new ground in Salter Road, which will open in “early 2016.”  He said: “We want fans and residents to send in their ideas for the future of the club and its new home. Should we have a women’s team? A disability team? A walking team? Should we have special fan days or celebrations? What can we do to better represent the community? “We are looking into a buy-a-brick scheme and several other ways that fans and residents can get involved – this is our club and we want as many people as possible to be a part of it.”

He added that the consultation was for both old fans and new, for long-time residents who remember and miss the old club and for new residents who may not yet have ever experienced having a local team. Ben said: “It’s all about gathering ideas from everyone. We owe it to ourselves to make it the best club we can and turn it into a real positive for the community.”

This weekend, to celebrate their upcoming return to Rotherhithe, they have all sorts of things going on at their Dulwich Hamlet location.  Here's the news item posted today on their website:

This year’s Non-League Day event takes place on Saturday (October 10th) and Fisher FC will be using the day to celebrate the best of SE16 as they welcome Sevenoaks Town to Champion Hill.

As part of the celebrations, the club is welcoming representatives from local organisations including Bermondsey Community Kitchen and Cherry Garden School. Local businesses including The Body Tonic Clinic and Canada Water based Metro Village are supporting the event which will be attended by The Mayor of Southwark.

On the day, to encourage a community atmosphere, SE16 residents (with proof of address) will be permitted entry for half of the usual price, meaning Adults can watch the game for just £3.50, with Over 60s and Students getting in for £2. This offer is also open to Premiership and Football League club season ticket holders (on presentation of season ticket). Usual entry prices are £7 for adults and £4 for Concessions.

Ahead of the event, Club Secretary Ian Murphy commented “As we edge ever closer to moving back to SE16, it is important that we engage with our community and that we show local residents what we are all about so they feel they want to come and support their club”.

Gates will open for supporters at 1.30pm on the day but there will be a Meet and Greet session with senior club officials in the stadium’s bar area from 12.30.

It looks like a great day.

The club's football history is detailed on the Fisher FC website


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