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Non League Football Under The Microscope

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Eastbourne Borough fans celebrate - August Bank Holiday Monday 2003                                Photograph by Sam Hicks

Bishop’s Cleeve FC

Kayte Lane, Bishop’s Cleeve, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL52 3PD
Telephone: 07866 077291
Nickname: Cleeve
Southern League

Note Although just past their centenary Bishop’s Cleeve have led something of a nomadic life at times. Indeed the current ground at Kayte’s Lane was only secured in 1997, and even then the club still had to spend a period ground-sharing.

For many years Cleeve played on a ground in Stoke Road, where facilities were all rebuilt and re-opened in 1971 by Ted Croker, the then Secretary of the FA. In 1987 the club won promotion to the Premier Division of the Hellenic League, but the next five seasons were a struggle and relegation ultimately followed. In order to maintain its status club entered into several ground sharing agreements and the grounds of Moreton Town, Wollen Sports at Highworth, and Forest Green Rovers, were all called home at one time or another. 

Approval for a new site at Kayte Lane was finally given in 1997, and members built a new clubhouse and changing rooms using materials donated by local employer Smiths Aerospace. Once this approval was given there was tremendous transformation in results on the field and they were duly promoted in 2001. In order to take up this promotion opportunity one final ground sharing agreement was arranged with Southern League club Evesham United. In 2002-03 the team made a triumphant returned to Kayte Lane after the new stand and floodlights were approved; and the FA Charter for Football in the Community was awarded in December 2002.

The magic of the FA Cup gave me an opportunity to tick another Gloucestershire club off a regrettably short list, with Eastbourne Borough drawing Cleeve in the 4th Qualifying Round. Hence the crowd in these photographs is substantially larger than the norm at Kayte Lane. I also suspect that pig roast is not normally included amongst the half-time fare usually on offer … although I could be wrong!

There are a couple of enormous dugouts painted in the club’s green colours, as is just about everything else; and behind the near goal is a splendid clubhouse, completed in 2004. In order to meet the requirements for promotion further seating of the Arena/AAS variety was installed towards the clubhouse end of the ground on the dugouts side of the ground, in addition to a couple of similar structures – one with and one without seats – on the opposite touchline.  The ground also offers visitors a magnificent scenic backdrop and is but a few furlongs from Cheltenham racecourse. DB