THE sword of Damocles hovering over Newport Football Club has been returned to its scabbard — at least for a season — after they struck a deal with Ryde Saints FC and Island Speedway to play their Sydenhams Wessex League home fixtures at Smallbrook Stadium.

Newport — who spent two years at East Cowes Vics’ Beatrice Avenue ground — had struggled to find another temporary home while their own plans for a new state-of-the-art stadium near Whippingham were being progressed.

There was concern among Port’s supporters the club would go to the wall if a new, suitable home with proper floodlighting could not be found before the next season kicked off in August.

But under a groundshare agreement of at least a year, worked on behind the scenes in recent weeks, Newport will fund the upgrading of the ground’s existing floodlights to meet Sydenhams Wessex League standards.

These will remain in place for subsequent users, as part of Smallbrook’s aim of hosting more high quality sport and leisure events for years to come.

Isle of Wight County Press: This is how Newport's new stadium could look at the Racecourse, Whippingham, but work is yet to start on it.This is how Newport's new stadium could look at the Racecourse, Whippingham, but work is yet to start on it.

Isle of Wight County Press: Ryde Saints manager Andy Brown, left, with club chairman Jaimie Humm, welcome Newport to Smallbrook Stadium following a historic groundshare agreement. FILERyde Saints manager Andy Brown, left, with club chairman Jaimie Humm, welcome Newport to Smallbrook Stadium following a historic groundshare agreement. FILE

It will also boost Ryde Saints’ ambition of competing in Wessex football themselves in the not-too-distant future.

Plans for their new ground still depend on planning permission being granted for a retail park at the club’s former home, St George’s Park.

With East Cowes Vics looking to reinstate a reserve team in Division 2 of the Island League, it was no longer viable for Newport to extend their groundshare at Beatrice Avenue.

Isle of Wight County Press: Martin Widman and Barry Bishop of Island Speedway have agreed to allow Newport FC to play at Smallbrook Stadium next season. Martin Widman and Barry Bishop of Island Speedway have agreed to allow Newport FC to play at Smallbrook Stadium next season.

“We had a good relationship with Newport, but we felt it was more important to have our reserve team playing at our ground, rather than Seaclose Park in Newport,” said a Vics spokesperson.

The Port are now looking forward to sharing with Ryde Saints, following lengthy discussions with the club and Island Speedway, the main leaseholders at Smallbrook.

“We would like to thank Island Speedway and Ryde Saints for their assistance in agreeing this groundshare, which will mean more use is made of an excellent local facility,” said Newport chairman, Tony Wake.

Isle of Wight County Press: Newport (in yellow) played at Beatrice Avenue, East Cowes, for two seasons. FILENewport (in yellow) played at Beatrice Avenue, East Cowes, for two seasons. FILE

“While we are looking forward to the new season at Smallbrook, our long-term future clearly involves a return to our own ground.

“We are fully committed to creating a new home for Newport, at a community sports facility, hopefully to be opened in 2022.

“Our default position remains a move to a site off the Racecourse, with work starting in the autumn.

“There has been local support for the idea of an alternative site at Seaclose and, while that does indeed have advantages, not least being closer to the town, decisions will have to be made very quickly by the local authority, which owns the land, if that is to remain an option.

Isle of Wight County Press: Newport will only play the one game at Beatrice Avenue next season, against East Cowes Vics in Division 1 of the Sydenhams Wessex League. FILENewport will only play the one game at Beatrice Avenue next season, against East Cowes Vics in Division 1 of the Sydenhams Wessex League. FILE

“In the meantime, we are already making preparations for next season and look forward to welcoming our fans to Smallbrook and its facilities.”

Smallbrook’s stadium manager, Sarah Green said after such a long period of inactivity, due to Covid restrictions, they were all looking forward to welcoming Newport to Smallbrook, along with their supporters and volunteers, who will find a warm welcome and great facilities, including the Premier Lounge.

“We are delighted to bring another regular quality sporting activity to Smallbrook,” Sarah added.

“Getting the agreement over the line has not been easy due to complexities in the Island Speedway-Ryde Saints lease, but we got there in the end.”

Andy Brown, Ryde Saints manager, said: “Our committee is pleased to be able to offer this opportunity to Newport and the wider community.

“As well as supporting others in a time of need, it also gives us a platform to start our own journey toward leagues which require semi-professional football facilities.”