Date published: 10/12/2014
Christmas has come early to Wheathampstead with the opening of a new state-of-the-art third-generation artificial grass pitch at its Marford Playing Fields, thanks to funding from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, Sport England and the 948 Sports Foundation.
With limited sports facilities in the local area, the new small-sided floodlit pitch in the centre of the village is a huge boost for the local community and will help provide more opportunities for people to take part in sport all year round.
The pitch is also a boost for local club, Wheathampstead Wanderers FC, who will put the new facilities to good use, allowing them to train regularly each week. It has over 350 members and the new pitch will provide an excellent resource for the club. The local primary schools will also use the facilities.
Adult teams are also benefitting from the fabulous new resource, as is a group of disabled footballers who now meet at the pitch on monthly basis. The pitch is also available for ad hoc hire for other sports and leisure activities such as activity based birthday parties.
David Johnston, Chairman of Wheathampstead Parish Council, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the response of the community to the facility. Apart from the organised training sessions, it is not uncommon to see families or casual groups getting together for impromptu games at any time of day.”
The new £200,000 pitch was officially opened by Paralympic GB Blind Football captain, David Clarke who was supported by Watford FC first team player, Sean Murray, England U17 and Wheathampstead Wanderers FC alumni, Anna Patten, captain of St Albans City FC Ben Martin and village based Saracens Rugby Club coach, Dan Vickers. The local community were on hand to join in a penalty shoot-out with the stars before ribbon cutting. Annie Brewster, Parish Council Vice Chairman, District Council Portfolio holder for Sports and Leisure and the main driving force for the project, was master of ceremonies.
Cllr Annie Brewster said: “We were so impressed, our brave celebrity guests did not hesitate to take their penalties blindfolded in front of a keen audience. Each made the comment they wished they’d had such a facility when they were starting their sporting careers. We have only been able to respond to the request by the village community and deliver the pitch thanks to the support of a large number of partners. The Parish Council would like to publicly thank them for backing our Marford Playing Fields project. It will change the lives of local children.”
David Clarke, having demonstrated why he is England’s leading goal scorer by powerfully putting his penalty into the corner of the net, said: “It is a real honour to support you at the end of what has been an epic journey resulting in a fabulous facility for the children and adults of the district. You can be very proud.”
The project received a contribution of £94,101 from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is managed by and delivered by The Football Foundation, £50,000 of National Lottery funding from Sport England’s Inspired Facilities Fund; the remainder was raised from a number of sources including Wheathampstead Parish Council and the 948 Sports Foundation.
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, added: “Wheathampstead Parish Council deserves huge credit for taking a vision and turning it into a reality, using funding provided by the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund. This pitch is an example of the positive impact that this funding is having on our grassroots game. First-class facilities like this are crucial to creating more opportunities for local people to enjoy regular sport.”
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. The investment we have made both through the Football Foundation and our Inspired Facilities fund will ensure the sports clubs and local community of Wheathampstead have access to a first-class sport facility for many years to come.”
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