Non League Club

Harrogate Town

About the CNG Stadium (aka Wetherby Road)
26471241020_7f8b0b3ee5_zHarrogate’s ground is a perfect example of what can be achieved when you throw away the rule book and deviate from the traditional approach to stadium redevelopment.  It is clear that each side has been redeveloped without any thought of overall uniformity but that is what makes the ground so good.  Along one side is the covered terrace that is steep enough to offer some excellent views, whilst opposite are two seated stands, one of which provide the necessary ground-grading compliance whilst the other rightly earns the “main stand” title thanks to its size.  In the corner of the ground is the hospitality area that has its own outside porch, complete with tables and chairs for guests to enjoy the facilities and the view.  The newest addition to the ground is the covered terrace at the Hospital End which displays two proud images of the team on either side of the end colums.

At the south end of the ground is a decent sized club house, club shop and changing rooms with just two small steps for terracing.  There is an excellent refreshment van in the corner of the ground where most fans enter that does huge home-made sausage rolls and the staple food in these parts, pie, peas and mint sauce.

How to get to the CNS Stadium
Leave the A1(M) at junction 47 and take the A59 towards Knaresborough. Then take the A658 towards Bradford/Harrogate. At the second roundabout turn right onto the A661 towards Harrogate. You will pass a Sainsburys and then after the lights with the Woodlands pub on one corner, then the entrance to the ground is a just a bit further down on the right.  There is a car park at the Hospital End of the ground or alternatively some street parking to be had to the south of the ground if you don’t mind a five minute walk.

Harrogate station is about a mile away and whilst walkable a bus (770, 771 and X70 all run from Harrogate Town Centre along Wetherby Road, passing the ground) or a cab (£6) are better options than the walk…unless you fancy dropping into the Empress Pub enroute at Church Square.

Admission to the CNS Stadium
Seating – Adults £14, Concessions £9, Under 16s £4 (1 Adult + 1 Under 16 £16)
Terrace – Adults £13, Concessions £8, Under 16s £3 (1 Adult + 1 Under 16 £14)

Our last visit – April 2016
Despite the fact we drowned our sorrows on a season to mostly forget last Saturday, there was still a fair amount of business to be decided in other leagues up and down the country.  Not only was there the small matter of deciding who would be moving up from the Ryman North and South but the National Leagues were also heading into their final games.  A sensible decision by the Conference meant that the final games in the Premier league would kick off at 5.30pm, meaning that if you picked the right games, you could see an earlier and a later game.

Never one to need an invitation to get involved in something like that I packed up the car and drove 252 miles north through rain, hail, sleet and snow to Harrogate to watch their final game of the season against Corby Town.  I could have lied to the Current Mrs Fuller and said this was a scouting trip; to some extent it was – a visit to a new ground means looking at their facilities, having a chat with officials and trying to get under the bonnet of the workings of their club – but this was purely down to having a rare opportunity to spread my wings and go for a wander, being a Football Tourist for the day.

Harrogate Town 5 Corby Town 0 – Wetherby Road – Saturday 30th April 2016
Harrogate Town had already sealed their Conference North Play-off spot and were hosting already relegated Corby Town.  The winter weather had passed over the Pennines and the sun was shining as crowds built up down Wetherby Road to get in.  An old chap behind me in the queue moaned that if this was what it would be like if they did go up to the Conference Premier, he wouldn’t be coming again.  He also said if they lost in the Play-offs he wouldn’t be coming again – you can’t please everyone!

26140376933_f671c8b014_kHarrogate have a decent ground with three of the four sides with good-sized structures.  There was also a hospitality area with a decked “porch” with nice tables and chairs set out.  There was a real family atmosphere feel around the ground, with kids having space to play their own games of football adjacent to the pitch.  Their 1919 hospitality area was doing a roaring trade before the game as well as the food van which was serving the staple in these parts, pie, peas and mint sauce plus a huge home-made sausage roll that would have made Katie Price blush.

26140279633_afa0f8ccfa_kThe difference between the two sides was evident within the first few minutes as Harrogate raced to a 3-0 before I’d finished said sausage roll.  Chatting to one of their officials it seems that to compete in this league you need a budget in the region of £5,000 per week, although Champions Solihull Moors have managed to win the league on a smaller budget.  Travel is a major issue for clubs with teams like Lowestoft Town, Gloucester City and Worcester City having to play against Barrow and Harrogate.  Whilst there isn’t one team who appears to have tried to buy their way to the league, next season the league will feature Darlington and Salford City, both of whom have significant resources behind them.

The club have a decent, vocal support though, who kept encouraging the team throughout the game.  In truth they could have scored double figures – whether that was simply the fact that the visitors had already given up for the season or that everything clicked over the 90 minutes.  One of the biggest cheers of the day was on the news that Leeds United had lost to doomed Charlton Athletic at Elland Road.  Whilst only being 20 miles down the road, the club didn’t seem to suffer in terms of attendances – in fact with the club still facing so much off-the-field turmoil, it has actually benefited Harrogate with a number of fans shunning the professional game for the beauty of the Non-League variety.

Could they cope with life at a higher level?  They certainly have the facilities in place and hopefully more locals, like today, would come and give the club a try.  After all, clubs of a similar size such as Boreham Wood, Welling United, Braintree Town and Guiseley had managed it for more than a season.  Good luck to Harrogate.


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