A quiet revolution is occurring on the West Sussex coast. We went down to Worthing FC to witness some Rebels with a cause.
We could see the floodlights lighting the cold November rain above the rooftops. A shrill whistle broke the blustering sea wind; we had missed kick-off. I was visiting with a local friend and luckily we only missed two minutes of the match, delayed as we were by an excellent nearby craft beer venue.
The Bibby Financial Services Stadium (Woodside Road) is tucked neatly between flanks of suburban housing and hosts something of a revival story. Entry to the 4,000-capacity ground cost £10 for an Isthmian League Premier Division clash between Worthing FC and Havant & Waterlooville.
The stadium reminds me a little of Bromley FC’s Hayes Lane – a tidy main stand with striking red livery supported on three sides by a mix of open and sheltered standing. All four sides were occupied by the 519-strong crowd, including healthy a visiting support. The pitch is 3G, and like Maidstone United, ‘The Rebels’ can make money from leasing out the pitch.
The locals were in fine voice, with fellow Sussex non-league rivals Bognor and Lewes FC coming in for particular attention.
A short history of Worthing FC
Worthing FC was founded in 1886 and been a non-league mainstay. The club is known as ‘The Rebels’ due to its resignation from the West Sussex League in 1920. Before that it was known as the ‘Mackerel Men’, and the fish still feature on the club crest.
In early 2015 the club was heavily in debt. Former Worthing FC player George Dowell – aged just 22 – became majority shareholder using compensation money from a road traffic accident that left him paralysed. As director, Dowell has high ambitions for the club. They were promoted to the Isthmian League Premier Division in 2015-16 season via the play-offs.
Against Havant & Waterlooville however, Worthing FC came unstuck. The visitors absorbed pressure well and hit twice on the break in the second half to go 2-0 up. The Rebels rallied, always threatened, and finally clawed one back with around ten minutes to go. Worthing FC played some good football on the artificial pitch but despite their continued pressure could not find a leveller.
Worthing FC is well worth a visit. Here’s how to get there: