Portsmouth's Harvest FC find a ground to call their very own - but are forced into taking reluctant step outside of the city they represent
Hampshire Premier League club Harvest have taken another significant step in their brief history by acquiring a first ground to call their own.
But the move does mean the club formed through the Copnor pub, The Harvest Home, are taking a reluctant step outside of the city they represent.
Harvest, currently in their second season at HPL level, will have both first-team and newly formed reserve teams based on the East Meon Football Field.
Chairman Neil Blake, who took up the position in September last year, admitted the ideal scenario would have been to remain in Portsmouth.
But after discussions with the city council, it became apparent Harvest would be forced to look outside of Portsmouth if they wanted to acquire a ground they could call their own.
Blake revealed the club had made approaches to take up the Harbour Sports Ground pitch behind Wessex League club Baffins Milton Rovers PMC Stadium, although they were unable to move onto that site.
So, it was a lightbulb moment for Blake which put the wheels in motion for a move to East Meon, and that is where Portsmouth's Harvest FC will now call home.
‘I’ve been at the club for around 13 or 14 months now and coming into the club, the priority was, the objective was to try to find a home for Harvest,’ said Harvest chairman Blake.
‘The club is only five years old, we started in the Mid Solent League, in five years we have reached county football. The current home ground is Front Lawn in Havant.
‘We’re a club from Portsmouth, we’d have liked to stay in Portsmouth, there were a few (grounds) where we could have gone.
‘We wanted Langstone where Baffins Milton Rovers play. They started on that top pitch when they were in this division, but that was a no from Steve (Pitt; Central Southsea Ward Councillor).
‘Back in July, it was only a little thought at work, I just thought of East Meon.
‘I went down there one Saturday, the place was run down, but I took it as a positive more than a negative because there was no-one using it.
‘Eventually I got hold of Susan Davenport, who is the East Meon Parish Council chair, she’s been absolutely supportive in what we’re trying to do.
‘For us, only being five years old, it’s just a place to call our own.
‘It’s so positive for Harvest Football Club. The locals have been up there when we’ve been up there and they’ve been so supportive of us.’
Since reaching HPL two seasons ago, Harvest have been playing home matches at the Hampshire FA's Front Lawn site in Havant.
The club have enjoyed quite the rise since forming back in 2016. They were crowned Portsmouth Saturday League champions - now known as the Mid Solent League - in the 2017-18 season.
Harvest then won successive Mid Solent League titles before moving up to Hampshire Premier League level at the start of last season.
And on the back of what has been quite the rise for all involved at the club, chairman Blake believes finding a site to call home was the natural next step to take.
He added: ‘We’re a Portsmouth side but there’s no room in Portsmouth whatsoever. Really, East Meon was the last port of call for me, if I didn’t find that then we’d have probably carried on playing at Front Lawn in Havant.
‘But money-wise playing there - we’re losing money every time. It’s £100 for the pitch hire, £40 for the referee and we’re charging our players each time to pay for it.
‘Front Lawn is owned by the Hampshire FA, Denmead play on it as well, they in the Hampshire Premier League, so we both alternate (with use).’
Harvest's reserve side, formed this season and who play in the Mid Solent League, could be playing out of East Meon from as early as next month.
However, the first-team will remain playing home fixtures at Front Lawn for the current campaign before switching to their new ground in pre-season.