Buntingford Cougars 50th Anniversary: 1971 – 2021

Back in 1996, Buntingford Cougars celebrated their 25th anniversary, a fantastic landmark for a wonderful club. As part of those celebrations Eric Addicott (who was President and founder) wrote an article for the Buntingford Journal chronicling the history of the Cougars. He signed off with a few simple words, “It makes one wonder what the next 25 years will bring.” It’s time we found out!


I’ll start by saying it can’t be going too badly for the club. There is currently no organisation bigger in Buntingford; business or recreational. From their humble origins in the early 70s, Cougars now boast 350+ members across 14 age groups. From our 4 year olds taking their first kicks in football with our Cubs group through to our U18s. To keep the club operating there are well in excess of 60 coaches and a committee of 20+ to keep it ticking over. If you were to walk the ginnels of Buntingford (of which there are many) it would be a stretch to find many in the community untouched by the club.
So what’s truly changed? A lot. But in other ways, not so much. The beauty of what the early Cougars pioneers put in place is that the foundations are strong. But let’s run through some specifics to bring us up to date….

Buntingford Cougars achieved FA Charter Standard in 2003. A true recognition of a well-run and sustainable football club. This was achieved under the stewardship of Mick Nolan. The award showed how Cougars prioritised qualified coaching and safeguarding, as well as the values of The FA’s Respect programme. And the club work incredibly hard to ensure we retain the accreditation each year.
One common theme from the early days of the club to the present day has been the availability of training and playing space. Buntingford Cougars have always used numerous community facilities for pitches. From the 70s when the club secured access to their London Road pitches; from Buntingford Relief In Need on a peppercorn rent, to today, when the club continues to spread to ever more venues, due to the ever-expanding member list. Off the top of my head – The Bury, London Road, Community Centre, Cottered, Barkway, Norfolk Road, Muga plus some use of school playing fields!

In 2005 the club were delighted to secure a lease with Sainsburys for the clubhouse and sports field as the Supermarket group vacated their distribution depot. The lease was secured as a joint venture between Buntingford Cougars Youth FC and the adult club Buntingford Town. The facility was re-named The Bury and is now firmly established as Buntingford’s home of football as well as possibly the finest party and social venue in the town!
For many years Cougars have organised and hosted the Buntingford Schools tournament, the event welcomes several local first schools to participate in a fun based tournament where every child is recognised and rewarded at the medal presentation. The tournament often encourages children to join Cougars after their first taste of an organised football match.

In the spring of 2011 Buntingford Cougars organised it’s first half term holiday soccer school welcoming children from 4 to 12 years old to enjoy football in a safe and enjoyable environment. The soccer schools were a quick success and were nearly always sold out in advance. They remain incredibly popular, now badged as Football Fun and still sell out rapidly and act as a great intro to the club for many youngsters.

In 2012 the Cougars committee really applied some focus and re-positioned the Cougars 5-a-Side tournament. They grew the event from a one weekend competition for a few age groups to a multi-weekend tournament accommodating U6s up to U15s (and later girls and adults in partnership with Buntingford Town). The Cougars 5-a-Side tournament is now one of the biggest in the county, held over four weekends with as many as 300 teams entering. It is the club’s biggest fundraising event and it was fantastic to be recognised as winners of the East Herts Service to Sport Award in 2016 primarily for the efforts around the tournament.

Prior to 2014 the youngest Cougars were 5 or 6 years old. In 2014 the club’s committee recognised that here was a need in the community to offer regular football participation to younger children. So, in 2014 Cougars Cubs was born offering football in a relaxed format to children as young as four years old and helped the club find willing volunteers to start the youngest Cougars teams as the little ones started their youth football careers. In very recent years, the club has built on their younger age group foundations with a firm path from Cubs to U6s (who train only) and into the first match-playing age group as the U7s.

In 2015 Buntingford Cougars reviewed and developed the club’s constitution and rules to better align to modern youth football and accompanied that review with the introduction of a Cougars Club Handbook. The handbook was and still is the document that sets out the standards and expectations in the club for all families and volunteers.

In 2017 the club were honoured by the County FA as The Herts FA Charter Standard Club of The Year. The prestigious award was presented to Chairman Richard Daly and recognised the club’s efforts in developing a club framework that encouraged children of all abilities to participate in football at Cougars supported by volunteers that recognised the FA’s safeguarding children and youth coaching principles.

In 2019, the club came to the realisation that the organisation was too big and complex for a single Chairman and switched to a model of an Exec Committee of 5 to spread the workload; ably supported by a great committee all fully committed to the club. It should be stated that this is about as sociable a committee as you are likely to meet – they love a drink accompanied with a scotch egg!


Since Eric wrote the original 25 year history, the club has grown and gone from strength to strength, responding to the growth of the town itself. The FA has standardised their approach to youth football and Cougars have embraced their approach. The demographics of our players have changed considerably; there was no mention of girls playing football in the 1996 article – fast forward and we have a huge number of girls across a wide range of our age groups
And what hasn’t changed? The kit. The ethos. The structure. The ambition to provide sporting opportunity to players of all abilities. Staffed top to bottom with volunteers.
Also, the club’s approach to fundraising. In the early days there was actually no annual membership fee – can you imagine! This meant that huge efforts were undertaken to raise funds for kit and equipment.

So what did the club do? Well, you might be able to test your age by seeing how many of these you can recall fondly!
Plenty of sponsored walks for a start – regularly getting the squads to walk 10 miles in and around Buntingford. A 100 club. Club dances – 3 or 4 a year, often held at Millfield School – the only modern equivalent might be the Club Nights at The Bury! Jumble sales – apparently these were legendary with a queue of “professionals” ready to go as they opened. A tombola stall at every local village fete. Carnival floats in the Buntingford carnival as well as organising the carnival itself on occasion. The 5-a-side tournament was started up as well as a fundraiser, albeit a little more rustic than today with scaffold poles for uprights! And possibly my favourite story from the days of yore – the 80s All-star games involving local (and not so local) celebs such as Tony Galvin of Spurs fame and incredibly, Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols who, rumour has it, is quite the player.

So it is with immense pride as a club that the fundraising spirit lives on. Our 50th anniversary celebrations in early September 2021 are centred around a sponsored walk for all of our club members – resurrecting a classic Cougars tradition. All in aid of the Lynsey Ivison Trust, dedicated to providing special holidays for children and families living with life-threatening illness.

And so, we’re about up to date. I need to thank every last one of the volunteers, the coaches, the committee, the dedicated parents who turn up in winter (and other seasons) to watch their kids. And the players – tough to know just how many players have been a Cougar over the past 50 years but it is many thousands. Just think about that for a second…. That’s quite a legacy in itself.

For those of us who have the privilege of looking after the club; custodians if you will for the next generation, we know we’re part of something special. Barcelona have their motto – “Més que un club”, which translates to “more than a club”. I can’t think of anything that better fits the Cougars. We live in a fast paced, modern world. To see a true grassroots, community football club dedicated to developing every one of their players regardless of ability brings a little tear to my eye.
As for my own small part in the history of Cougars? Moving to Buntingford from the wild lands of the north (Lancashire), Cougars provided me with a family. I was rapidly sucked in from simple parent to match reporter to committee member to vice chair to Exec Committee member. This club has a habit of making a “lifer” of you. In fact, the club is carried by a small hardy group of volunteers. Quite a few of them fit the bill of lifers; all of them dedicated to their community club.
And for the very final few words…. “What will the next 25 years bring?” Come on you Cougars!!


A huge thank you to past Chairmen Alan Freeman, Rich Daly and Barry Tokely for their time and contributions to the Cougars history (as written above) as well as the part they’ve played in the club over the last 50 years.

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