South Shields Football Club is delighted to announce that a deal has been reached which will see it return to its former home, Filtrona Park, in time for the 2015-16 season.
The ground, in Shaftesbury Avenue, will be known as Mariners Park after Geoff Thompson (pictured), the founder and chief executive of energy consultancy firm Utilitywise, agreed to buy it and then lease it back to the club.
Mr Thompson will become the Mariners’ chairman, with incumbent Gary Crutwell to become vice-chairman, assisting with the day-to-day running of the club.
The deal for Mariners Park will go through subject to Northern League ratification and final checks, and is expected to be completed by early-June.
The completion of the deal will bring an end to Shields’ two-year stay at Eden Lane, in Peterlee, where home games have been played since the club’s former lease on Filtrona Park ended.
Geoff Thompson said: “The committee has done a tremendous job to keep the club alive over what has been an extremely difficult period in its history.
“I’m delighted to be able to help out, and very excited to now be part of such a historic football club with vast potential.
“I’m confident that there are some very exciting times ahead for the club, and the first step towards that was to ensure it got back into the town as quickly as possible.
“To do that at a facility as excellent as Mariners Park is fantastic, as it has everything we need, and so much potential to be improved further in the future.”
On his ambitions for the club, Mr Thompson added: “Ultimately, from a first-team point of view we want to progress as high up the football pyramid as we can.
“We want the club to be vibrant from top to bottom, though, and we feel it has a huge role to play in the community.
“The club already has a superb junior section, which we hope will grow and flourish further, and a big aspect for me is the community side of things.
“I want us to be at the centre of the community, and we hope to build partnerships with the local authority and schools as part of this.
“Mariners Park will be at the forefront of everything we do, and we can hold community events there, while we would also like our football coaches to go out into South Tyneside schools to put on sessions and inspire the next generation to play football and realise their full potential.”
Gary Crutwell said: “It has been a tough few years for the club, but I am very proud of the committee’s efforts to get through that period, and am confident that there are some excellent times ahead.
“We are delighted to have Geoff on board, and can’t thank him enough for his efforts so far.
“The ambitions and potential of the club are massive, and I really hope we can provide the successful and community-based club that this town deserves.
“South Shields – and South Tyneside in general – is a football-oriented area, and we hope to well and truly tap into that potential.
“We would like to appeal to the football supporters of the town to get behind us to help us achieve our ambitions, and we want to provide them with a club to be proud of.
“The first step towards reaching those ambitions was to secure a ground in the town, and we are thrilled to be moving back to our former home.”
South Shields’ move to the Shaftesbury Avenue facility will see the club return to the ground it played at between 1992 and 2013.
The club would like to pay particular thanks to all of those at Peterlee who have been so helpful and welcoming over the last two years, and wishes them every success for the future.
Further updates regarding the ground will be made in due course.
Tributes will be paid to the club’s former treasurer, Kevin Law, ahead of tomorrow’s league game at Billingham Town.
Kevin passed away two years ago tomorrow at the age of 50, and is still greatly missed by all at South Shields FC.
As a mark of respect, a minute’s silence will be held before the Ebac Northern League Division Two game, while Shields’ players will wear black armbands.
Chairman Gary Crutwell said: “Kevin is greatly missed by all connected to the club.
“The football club was certainly a better place with him here.
“He was a great person to work with, and nothing was a problem for him.
“He would help in any way he could, and brought a lot of people into the club, including sponsors, as well as his own help in terms of assistance with materials and financial help.
“He is a huge miss to the football club, and was an all-round good and funny guy.
“It was a tragedy really for him to be taken as soon as he was.
“He had businesses in Newcastle but always found the time to assist us in whatever way he physically could, and he was always level-headed.
“He had thousands of friends, and I would struggle to find anyone with a bad word to say about Kevin.
“The tributes to him at tomorrow’s game are the least we could do, and all of our thoughts at this time are with Kevin’s family and friends.”
The club’s end of season presentation night was held on Saturday at The Mile Bar, in South Shields.
The night featured entertainment from magician George Dunn, while there was also a buffet, disco and raffle.
The main event of the evening was the presentation of the end of season awards to the club’s first-team players. All award winners were presented with an inscribed salver.
The club thanks all players for their efforts last season, and congratulates all award winners on their achievements.