Clive Efford, Shadow Minister for Sport and a local MP, officially opened Meridian Sports & Social Club’s new state-of-the-art third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) and ground improvements, including new stand and floodlights, last night (Wednesday 11 February).
The project was made possible thanks to a £322,568 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation, the UK’s largest sports charity. The Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF), which is funded by the Premier League, awarded £93,000. A further £150,000 was given from The FA as part of the funding it receives from Sport England to increase football participation. This money is allocated to grassroots clubs on their behalf by the Football Foundation.
The opening event was followed by a ceremonial fixture between a Meridian XI and a London FA representative team.
Meridian Sports and Social Club’s previous sand-dressed Astro Turf pitch, installed in 1987, was in a state of disrepair and participation at the site was declining as a result. However, thanks to the funding, the club now has the use of a high-quality, all-weather playing surface that can be utilised all-year round by the local community.
Charlton Athletic FC enjoy a partnership with Lewisham Southwark College Football Academy who conduct all their coaching sessions at the site. The college, who have produced several professional players including AS Saint-Étienne midfielder Max Gradel, use the hook of football to encourage their students to perform well academically. Similarly, Aldershot Town FC’s London Youth Academy utilise the facilities as a satellite training centre and educational resource for their players to achieve B-Tech qualifications. Arsenal FC alsouse the site for coaching.
Strong partnerships are already in place with several local grassroots clubs Junior Reds FC, Eltham Town Youth FC and Bridon Ropes FC who will regularly use the new 3G AGP for training and matches. All three affiliated clubs are strongly committed to attracting new participants.
Funding from the FSIF has also enabled Meridian Sports & Social Club to carry out a range of ground improvements on their first-team pitch. The improvements include new floodlights, a new 113-seater stand, hard-standing areas, a pitch perimeter barrier, boundary fencing and ball stop netting. This work will ensure that Meridian VP FC and Bridon Ropes FC, who both play in the Kent Invicta League and use the pitch on alternate weeks, are able to achieve the necessary facilities standards required to continue playing at this level.
Meridian Sports & Social Club worked in partnership with the London FA to secure the £322,568 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.
The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund is funded by the Premier League, The FA, and the Government, via Sport England. It is delivered by the Football Foundation, the largest sports charity in the UK. Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded more than 13,000 grants worth more than £513m towards improving grassroots sports facilities. The Foundation has been able to use this funding to attract additional partnership funding of more than £730m, which means that the Football Foundation has been responsible for an overall investment of more than £1.2bn into the grassroots game.
By providing more high-quality facilities, coupled with coaching at the appropriate age group, the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund aims to improve the experience for those who already play grassroots football regularly, and attract new players to the game.
Emphasis is placed on using these state-of-the-art facilities to strengthen the connection between professional football clubs and their local communities, particularly in the most deprived areas of the country, where the need is greatest, through the outstanding work being carried out by professional club’s community outreach work.
The Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF), the Football Foundation’s sister organisation, offers financial support towards ground improvement projects for football clubs at the lower levels of the game, with money provided by the Premier League.
Clive Efford, Shadow Sports Minister and MP for Eltham, commented: “I was delighted to be at Meridian Sports & Social Club to attend the official opening of their refurbished 3G pitch and ground improvements. The club members have worked hard over the years to make this happen, and I would like to place on record my appreciation for the help and assistance provided by the Football Foundation, and the London FA, who have worked to ensure that this impressive project came to fruition. This facility will be of tremendous benefit to grassroots clubs and local community for many years to come.
“I would also like to pay tribute to the work of the Football Foundation. Since 2000, the Football Foundation has provided 64 grants worth £4.2m towards grassroots sports projects across my constituency, Eltham. The Foundation has managed to draw in a further £6.3m of partnership funding, which means that £10m has been invested in the constituency. This is a remarkable figure and reflects the passion for sport which the people of this area share.”
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, added: “The Football Foundation is extremely proud of its role in delivering The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, on behalf of our funders, The Premier League, The FA and the Government, and seeing the results it achieves. This funding is making a huge impact, especially in some of the most deprived areas of the country, where the need is greatest and where we can achieve a significant impact in terms of participation increases and improving community health, as well as other economic and community benefits. Last year alone, we witnessed an average increase in football participation of 11% across all the facilities we have delivered.
“Every single investment we make is ‘squeezed’ to ensure that it delivers at least the outcomes that were agreed and ideally more. We also work hard to achieve a ‘multiplier effect’ through securing additional partnership funding. Just in London alone, we have supported 143 projects with grants worth £22.6m, which has been used to attract an additional £37.4m in partnership funding.”
Sport England Property Director, Charles Johnston, said: “We know people have a better experience of sport when they have good facilities in which to play. Our investment in The FA for facilities improvement is helping turn run down and tired pitches into high quality playing surfaces for training, coaching, small-sided and 11-a-side football. The investment into facilities like Meridian Sports & Social Club’s underpins the work being down across a number of different programmes to get more people playing and developing a lifelong sporting habit.”
Peter McCormick OBE, Chairman of the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, added: “The ground improvements at Meridian Sports & Social Club, along with the refurbished 3G pitch at the site, is a hugely significant development for the club and grassroots football in South East London. Thanks to the considerable grant from the FSIF, Meridian VP FC and Bridon Ropes FC will now be able to generate extra revenue all-year round and offer safe and comfortable facilities for players and spectators alike.”