Lewes’ Dripping Pan stadium is located approximately 3 miles from Brighton and Hove Albion’s Amex Stadium. The two are separated by many divisions now but have shared players and remain deeply entrenched in the community that surrounds them. The Dripping Pan is next to a park while one can see hills in the distance as the picturesque little ground contains a car park, offices, an AstroTurf ground for their academy as well as a pitch surrounded by two stands on its South and East as well as a grass bank and a terrace obscured by a clubhouse.
The football season has been over for ‘The Rooks’, as their fan base affectionately knows them, but the Dripping Pan is still a hub of activity with the Bonfire Cup, annual Robert Eaton Memorial Fund Challenge Match, National Football Therapy Cup, and Lawrence Knight Memorial Game for children’s cancer, Chris Lee Memorial Cup and Every Sort of People Music Festival.
“As a community club, we feel it is our duty to get all the community involved with activities. We offer the pitch to various charities to raise funds for their respective charities and to engage the community as they go along. We have got 1,200 owners, they ask if we can let them have the pitch to raise funds which is very good for us,” said Kevin Miller, who is the Chief Executive of Lewes Football Club.
Miller is in charge of the day-to-day operations at the Dripping Pan including the academy, men’s and women’s team. Stuart Fuller is the Chairman while Terry Parris is the Vice-President, as 1,200 owners from 25 countries across the globe own shares the club. The club use the influence of a worldwide network to influence their local community. The Dripping Pan also represents neutral ground where Brighton and Crystal Palace fans meet to take part in the Robert Eaton Memorial Challenge Match.
“The Robert Eaton Memorial game is a charity game set up by Brighton and Hove Albion fans after Robert Eaton was killed in 9/11 in the world trade centre and his friends set up a charity. They invited Crystal Palace fans to come along and take part in an annual football match and they raise funds throughout the year for various charities in Croydon, Brighton and New York,” explained Kevin Miller.
Miller also describes the process of decision making and ownership that comes with being a fan-owned club.
“We have 1,200 owners in 25 countries. The success of some of the posters we do, the way we conduct ourselves and word of mouth means that we do get a lot of PR. We send out an email to them once a week and any big decisions that come up which are constitutional with the club, they get to know as well. They also vote on board matters as every October, we have an election to become a board member. A board member’s run is three years and they can re-elect themselves by putting a manifesto out and they can also resign from the board. We have an election process either online or after a game.”
Lewes’ season officially ended on the 17th of April but with all the activities that took place, the pitch was only torn apart in preparation for the new season on the 14th of May. Lewes’ Community Development Manager, Adam Wolecki is currently heading up an initiative with the local council to help with care for dementia patients. The council and the club have had meetings at the Dripping Pan and will continue to have meetings in the future in the hope of helping Lewes become a Dementia Friendly Town.
“To summarise, the aim activities Lewes District Council are undertaking around dementia awareness at the moment include playing an active part in establishing two local dementia action alliances in the Lewes and Haven’s district. Including providing 3VA with funding to work on this, encouraging staff to become dementia friend’s champions, delivering dementia friends information sessions to our staff and delivering dementia friend’s information sessions to our councillors. Over the next year we hope to engage in more community activities with the local action alliances and offer information sessions to the local community,” said Lisa Tiller who is the Equalities Performance Officer at the Lewes District Council.
The Lewes Women’s side also play in the FA Women’s Premier League South Division where they face sides like Crystal Palace, West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur. Lewes managed to thrash Huddersfield 4-0 to win the FA Women’s Premier League Plate trophy this season for the club’s first national trophy in men or women’s football. While West Ham United have just taken control of their Women’s team, Lewes a club with scant resources in comparison is doubling down on Women’s football.
“This season, we started a girl’s academy. This is the first time we have set one up in a partnership with Cardinal Newman Sixth Form College in Hove and girls 16 and onwards get to the college to study while training is on a Monday and a Friday while they play matches on a Wednesday. It is a two-year process and the first crop of girls will be going into their second-year as that is a pathway for girls who want to pursue a career in football as they can keep it going for as long as they can. There’s a lot of money going into women’s football and it is very popular, the fact that Lewes are in the Women’s Premier League is testament to the work the backroom staff have put in for the better part of a decade,” said Miller.
The Dripping Pan is developing as a major hub of activity in the Lewes community as well as being a historical monument as Lewes’ have played at the ground since its construction in the late 1800s. There are some plans to renovate the kitchen and the clubhouse at the ground as Lewes’ first instinct is to always facilitate its community. The club and town will always be hand-in-hand as they embark on a journey to foster a togetherness between club and community.