A FOOTBALL club which has been operating with homemade floodlights for many years, now has the latest pitch lighting installed in a £56,000 project.

The original lights at Northallerton Football Club were put in place in 1990 and made from street lamp columns, with a homemade lighting extension added to the top.

The Northern League club, based on Ainderby Road in Northallerton has managed with a combination of homemade pitch lights and hand-me-down floodlights from other clubs for many years. At one point the club returned home victorious from a cup match with the opposing teams’ floodlights, which they had donated to Northallerton.

“In 1991 we played in a cup game against a club called Frickley Athletic, we beat them and ended up coming back with their old floodlights. We shared the gate receipts and they gave them to us as part-payment,” said Mark Walker, a committee member of Northallerton Football Club.

He said the lights were replaced a number of years later when another Northern League club donated Northallerton its old lighting.

Mark, who was project manager for the floodlights project, said the situation reached critical point when it became clear the lighting columns were rotting away and had become potentially dangerous. But without a floodlit pitch, the club ground would not meet the standards required to continue playing in the Northern League

“The lights were okay, but the columns were becoming rotten. They were starting to rust from the inside and becoming quite dangerous. But floodlights are a pre-requisite at the level we play at, in the Northern League.

“Had we not been able to replace them the whole future of the club would be in jeopardy.”

The majority of the money came from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF) who provided £39,800. The fund awards grants to clubs from the Football League down to the lower levels of the FA National League System to help them meet the FA’s ground grading requirements. It is funded by the Premier League.

The rest of the money came from Hambleton District Council’s Making a Difference Fund, a community grant from Councillor David Blades and from the club’s own funds.

The club has replaced its previous eight lighting columns with four corner columns. The lighting directs nearly double the amount of light on to the pitch, whilst also drastically reducing the light pollution emitted into the atmosphere by the previous installations.

The club was able to hire one of a few national sports lighting specialists for the work, Direct Sports Lighting, who are based nearby in Ripon.

The lights are now in place and are being used to full effect as the nights draw in.

Now the club is moving on to its next project; to improve its changing facilities.

Mark said: “We’re looking to make major improvements to the changing facilities going forward and incorporating the junior section and potentially a ladies’ changing room.

“We need to fundraise; it’s probably a two-year project, maybe three years.”