The Football Foundation’s Alice Sherritt reflects on a busy few months as the nation’s largest sports charity continues to improve schools’ grassroots football facilities, with help from some of football’s famous faces.
Those facilities have been made possible thanks to money from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation, and funded by the Premier League, The FA and the government, via Sport England. By funnelling money from the very top of the sport downwards, the Football Foundation is improving the country’s inventory of sports facilities, including those found in schools. This means that facilities delivered by the Football Foundation are specifically helping students to fulfil their physical and academic potential.
The Foundation ensures that grants are awarded to the areas that need them most, which makes for high participation levels all‑year round. Increases of seven per cent in football, and eight per cent in multi‑sport participation, over the last year at Football Foundation‑funded facilities are testament to this.
These big increases have come about because the Foundation works alongside county FAs and schools to produce five-year Football Development Plans (FDPs), which are a vision for how football will be delivered at a site with emphasis on increasing participation.
London school’s new 3G pitch
Football Foundation Ambassador and former England defender, Chris Powell, recently stopped by Northolt High School, in Ealing, to open their new third-generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP). A £288,034 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund enabled the school to refurbish their old 3G carpet, which had become so worn that it was hindering the pupil’s PE lessons.
Now the new state-of-the-art surface will play host to a range of different football sessions for the students, as well as rugby lessons. Lambeth-born Powell was able to see the pitch in action, with a PE lesson taking place at the opening.
He said: “It was really inspiring to see the pitch full of young people enjoying their football, the pitch will have a significant impact on local grassroots sport for years to come.”
The school’s Football Development Plan, drawn up in conjunction with the Middlesex FA predicts that the Premier League Kicks programme – a football-focused community outreach scheme aimed at difficult to reach young people – will see a rise in the numbers of children taking part. In fact Brentford FC’s Community Sports Trust will deliver weekly Premier League Kicks sessions and also run a futsal programme at the refurbished facility.
Bishop Auckland’s new 3G pitch
Sunderland AFC striker, Duncan Watmore, opened Durham-based St John’s School and Sixth Form College’s new £614,950 3G AGP, in his first role as a Football Foundation Ambassador. The project was made possible thanks to a £214,950 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, with the new surface replacing a dilapidated Multi-Use Games Area and part of the school’s natural grass playing field that was prone to waterlogging.
Looking back at his formative years as a player, Duncan, who recently graduated with a first-class degree in economics and business management, said: “The beauty of floodlit 3G pitches is that they don’t get waterlogged and you can play on them through the dark evenings. I remember trying to train on some real quagmire natural grass pitches and then having to finish the session early because it got too dark!”
The School Sports Partnership – a scheme designed to increase sports and physical education opportunities for schoolchildren – plans to give 26 of St John’s teachers and 36 Junior Sports Leaders the opportunity to gain FA Level One coaching qualifications.
Also as a result of the Football Development plan – made possible thanks to input from the Durham FA – local amateur club St Mary’s JFC will be able to increase the number of teams they cater for from 18 to 40, with the majority of growth at boys and girls Under-10 to Under-18 level over the five year period. The club also intends to introduce Under-11 and Under-18 disability teams.
New facilities at a North London college
Sky Sports News anchor, Hayley McQueen, surprised pupils at Finchley-based Woodhouse College when she marked the official opening of the sixth form’s new £470,554 floodlit 3G AGP by unveiling a commemorative plaque.
Hayley, who is one of the UK’s best‑known female sports journalists, spent time talking to the pupils about her career as a sports broadcaster and her love for the grassroots game.
She said: “I’m very fortunate to work in the industry I do because it afforded me the chance to report on the stars at the top of the game. But we mustn’t forget where it all starts, and where the next generation of young stars will come from – the grassroots.”
The facility was made possible thanks to a £220,554 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, and the new surface replaces an old sand-dressed pitch which had become so worn it was no longer fit for use.
The state-of-the-art facility will also play host to a girls’ drop-in session, and competitive league. Other initiatives created by the Football Development Plan, and London FA, include Mars Just Play and Football Futures sessions, while other sports are expected to feature as part of the college’s PE curriculum plan.
There are also plans in the pipeline for the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation to use the pitch as a community hub, from which they will deliver a range of outreach programmes.
Seeing the pitch take shape
Russell Martin, captain of Norwich City FC, donned a hard hat and high-vis vest at Open Academy recently to visit the school’s £688,789 Football Development Centre which is currently under construction. The project has been made possible thanks to a £498,789 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.
When finished, the Football Development Centre will be home to a 3G AGP and changing rooms and will be used by the school between 8am-5pm, then by the community in the evening and weekends. Norfolk FA will be responsible for operating the site during evenings, weekends and school holidays, using the site to deliver many of its initiatives, including Workforce Education and County 5IVES.
The new facility will also serve as a base for many Norwich City FC Community Sports Foundation initiatives, who will deliver a variety of their programmes, which will include girls’ and boys’ development centres along with the other existing programmes still taking place at the school such as the Premier League 4 Sport initiative.
Martin said: “It won’t just be the Academy’s pupils that benefit. Lots of local grassroots football clubs and other community groups will get to use the site. I am also really pleased that this site will now also become a venue for the Norwich City Community Sports Foundation’s superb outreach work.”
Granting a chance to play sport
Investment in schools’ facilities, specifically third-generation (3G) artificial grass pitches (AGPs), elicits huge rises in participation because poor facilities are the main barrier to playing football. For example, a floodlit 3G AGP can host play to 90 hours of play a week compared to just five on a natural grass pitch in the winter. Simply, a 3G AGP means that more young people can get involved in sport and play for longer.
Since its 2000 inception, the Football Foundation has been delivering funding from the Premier League, the FA and the government in the shape of 14,200 grants worth more than £560 million towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £780 million making a total of over £1.3billion of investment.
More than half of all the 3G AGPs that the Foundation has delivered are based at schools across England. That means that tens of thousands of students can enjoy state-of-the-art pitches for both physical education and extra-curricular activity.