The club was formed in 2004 when Wokingham Town FC merged with Emmbrook Sports. Wokingham Town were previously champions of the Isthmian League First Division in 1980–81, and reached the first round of the FA Cup in 1982–83, and the semi-finals of the FA Trophy in 1987–88. Some difficult times followed which saw the club’s ground sold for housing development meaning a number of years ground sharing and eventually ended in the merger with Emmbrook Sports to create a new club.
Recent times have been more positive; in May 2015 the Sumas won the Reading Senior Cup for the 4th time on the bounce, and also won the Hellenic Division One East to secure their first ever league title. While the promotion to the Hellenic Premier was short lived, the future looks bright with the youth section of the club going from strength to strength and in recognition of good practice Wokingham & Emmbrook FC was awarded Charter Standard Community Club status in June 2015. In 2016 the club were also granted planning permission to develop their home ground of Lowther Road to a suitable level for FA step 5 football.
The club now has over 450 members, and operates 40 teams across the youth section, playing across Saturdays and Sundays in the Berkshire Youth Development League, East Berks Football Alliance, North East Hants Youth League and Berkshire County Girls Football League.
Girls football is gathering great momentum at the club, with teams at most age-groups from U10 upwards, with particularly strong numbers in the younger age-groups, and for the first time this season an U18 team competing in the Thames Valley County Women’s Football League. We are a sister club with Reading FC Ladies and look forward to developing this partnership going forward.
Our highly successful Sunday morning Football Fun programme sees on average 40
children attend, developing the fundamentals of the game. This is the first step of our player pathway for the move to organised football, one the success of this programme is illustrated by the fact that we are currently fielding four sides at U7 and five at U8.
As per most clubs, Wokingham & Emmbrook FC is run by a volunteer committee, but a perhaps more unique feature is our dedicated Football Development and Club Development roles which have facilitated things like the Charter Standard Community Club application and developing a DNA framework which was rolled out in January this year.
Wokingham & Emmbrook were one of the pilot clubs for the FA coach mentor scheme which helped cement and share existing good practice within the club and drive further improvements where required to satisfy the criteria for Community Club status.
We haven’t stood still since our mentor season and some key legacies of the scheme are our quarterly coach forums and the launch of our club DNA this year.
The Wokingham & Emmbrook FC DNA takes the England DNA framework and translates this to the grassroots environment in which we operate, and is part of our efforts to ensure all our young players receive the best start in their hopefully life-long football experience.
The club has forged strong relations with the BBFA in recent seasons supporting initiatives such as the youth futsal league, hosting CPD events and having active discussion around facilities development in the area. We are strong believers in celebrating both participation and success, and our end of season club presentation day is always a fantastic day and commented on by the parents of players new to the club. The club has also supported teams representing Wokingham & Emmbrook to participate in tours to various locations, including nearly forty U12s and their siblings and parents visiting St. Georges Park last year. We would also consider ourselves to be active members of the local community, taking a very visible part in events like the Wokingham Winter Carnival and May Fayre.
Our on-going ambition is to provide access to good quality football opportunities for boys and girls of all ages and abilities in the Wokingham area. This is in keeping with the club mission statement “to enable every football player to reach his or her full potential whilst ensuring enjoyment of all aspects of the game”. This ultimately includes a smooth pathway to high standard senior football, and we hope to improve this pathway in the coming 1-2 years with the reintroduction of U18 Allied Counties midweek floodlit league team, and possibly further down the line an U21 side. More immediately we are looking to ensure the club meets the tightened criteria necessary to retain Community Club status in coming years.
Girls & Ladies football will remain high on our priority list and establishing a sustainable ladies team is the key challenge in this area, as well as continuing to bring more girls into the game and critically keep them playing as they get older.
As a club we recognise the benefits of futsal as a learning tool, a bad weather alternative and also a potential means of keeping players in the game as they get older given some of the national changes with 11v11 player numbers, and we will be looking to increase our participation in this area.
Off the pitch, we have a big project on our hands to realise the fund-raising for the approved proposed ground developments and then delivery of the facility, but are very keen to see the club have the facilities required for the town’s team to play good level of football in Wokingham rather than having to groundshare outside the borough. Most of the challenges we face are the same as most volunteer-run grassroots clubs. Funding is the obvious one – while we feel we represent good value compared to some other local clubs of our size, and are fortunate to secure some sponsorship from supportive local businesses, we have been forced to raise membership fees as running costs continue to rise, seemingly year-after- year. As mentioned previously, we now have the opportunity to develop our home ground but only once a huge fundraising task has been completed.
One of our club’s strengths – our huge player base – also represents a significant challenge. Wokingham is a great place to live…unless you want access to floodlit 3G facilities, and so finding 40-plus hours of training facility hire at reasonable times and affordable costs continues to be an annual challenge, although we are starting to have some more constructive conversations with the council and hopefully have some light at the end of the tunnel. However a phenomenal rate of housing growth in the borough will likely mean that accommodating further player numbers will be an on-going challenge.
Volunteer recruitment and succession planning for the current committee is proving to be more difficult than we hoped, and we actually need to expand this part of the club in order for it to run efficiently e.g. a membership secretary in addition to the more traditional core committee roles. We appreciate people have increasingly busy lives…but a football club with nearly 500 players doesn’t run itself!