Despite suffering a shocking blow this time last year, the support of a community has seen a North Yorkshire amateur football club go from strength to strength.
Twelve months ago, volunteer-run Thirsk Falcons Football Club lost its junior teams’ equipment in an arson attack that destroyed the container unit in which the gear was stored.
“It was a real shock to the club,” said club secretary Debbie Ingoldsby, “but the community was absolutely fantastic. They pulled round us and supported the club.”
Among those who helped was County Councillor Gareth Dadd, Deputy Leader and Member for Thirsk, who has been a long-time supporter of the club. Gareth contributed some of his council locality budget towards replacing the lost kit and equipment.
“The club is a classic example of real community volunteering,” he said. “It involves all age groups, from the volunteers running it down to the kids that turn up to be involved, boys and girls, and they feed through into the more senior teams, so it is something that really does unite the town and touches everybody’s lives.”
Thirsk Falcons runs about 20 teams, juniors ranging from under-sevens to under-17s and three senior teams.
Debbie said: “After the fire, the community was fantastic, they wanted to fundraise and support the club. Cllr Dadd was equally pro-active in supporting us. He has been involved with the club for a number of years and has always supported what we have done. Straightaway he got in touch and asked what he could do to help.
“It was just fantastic to get all of that support. The Football Foundation also supported the club with grants to replace lost equipment and get us back on track.
“If you talk to anybody in Thirsk they probably have some connection to the football club, whether they have played themselves, or their son or daughter has played. It goes right back to when the club was set up in 1948.”
The club has about 300 registered players and is always keen to welcome more. Everyone involved in running it is a volunteer.
“The people involved in the club are so passionate,” said Debbie. “All the coaches and club officials give up their free time. It is exciting to be part of it.”
Cllr Dadd and former County Council chair Cllr Jim Clark, who stood down this month, recently visited the club to see its progress since the fire. For Cllr Clark, the visit helped him to realise his ambition to visit all 68 county council electoral divisions during his time in office, which was extended because of the pandemic.
He said: “It was a pleasure to be able to meet some of the people involved in a club that is clearly at the heart of its community. This collective spirit and mutual support says so much about North Yorkshire and reflects the dedication and commitment I have seen across the county.”
Since recovering from the arson attack, the club has begun a move from its athletics club site to Sowerby Sports Village, where it intends to have a new clubhouse and 3G synthetic pitch, to enable its senior teams to play a higher level of football.
Debbie said: “The arson was a shock at the time, but it certainly hasn’t held the club back. We have carried on and done more than we ever anticipated in the last year. We want to carry on growing and serving the local community.”