Today, Football Foundation Ambassador and former Leicester City FC striker, Dion Dublin was back in the East Midlands to open Wreake Valley Academy’s new £567,000 third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP). Former Foxes skipper, Matt Elliott joined his old teammate to cut the ribbon at the stunning new facility.
The state-of-the-art pitch was made possible thanks to a £350,740 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation. The Fund provides grants towards developing new or refurbished grassroots football facilities.
This grant enabled Wreake Valley Academy to build the new floodlit 3G AGP, which will not only be used extensively by the school’s 1,300 pupils but by a number of grassroots football clubs including Syston Town JFC and Riverside FC.
Through this project, the Academy worked in close partnership with the Football Foundation and Leicestershire County FA to develop a five-year Football Development Plan (FDP) – a long term vision for how sport will be played at the new facility. This Plan projects a rise in the number of affiliated teams from 14 to 69 and increase in participation at the site of 245%.
The Leicester City FC Community Trust will use the pitch as a hub for a number of its programmes. For example, every Tuesday between 5.30pm-7pm, Leicester City will run sessions on the pitch for local children from across the community who otherwise would not have the opportunity to play regular football.
This is in addition to school holiday coaching courses, run by Leicester City FC coaches, which have already proved to be a huge success with boys and girls of all ages during the summer break.
Leicester City FC’s Player Pathway satellite sessions will also be held on the pitch with the most talented youngsters given a chance to progress through to the Leicester academy. Current First Team players Andy King and Jeffrey Schlupp came through the same system.
Leicester City Ladies FC will also have a strong presence at the facility, with their Regional Talent Camp already in operation on the new pitch. Their training sessions and matches are also scheduled on the surface throughout the season.
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 country’s largest sports charity. Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded around 15,000 grants worth more than £580m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £800m – over £1.3bn of investment into the grassroots game.
Since 2000 the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 232grants worth over £16m towards grassroots sports projects worth nearly £37m across the whole of Leicestershire.
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 regular players as well as attracting new players to the game.
Many of the new state-of-the-art facilities will serve to strengthen the connection between professional football clubs and their local communities, particularly in the most deprived areas of the country, through the professional clubs’ community trusts’ outreach work. With the extensive benefit that Leicester City will be delivering for local people, the Wreake Valley 3G is an excellent example of this strengthening of a club and its community in action.
Dion Dublin, said: “I used to play in the Sunday League in this neck of the woods – in fact I played against Syston Town JFC when I was younger! – and this new 3G surface is incredible when you compare it to the sort of run-down pitches that were being used here until recently.
“The school’s 1,300 pupils will use it day-in, day-out – it will also become a home for local grassroots clubs and footballers from the wider community.
“Something I’m also really encouraged by is the involvement of Leicester City FC’s Community Trust at the pitch. As well as their coaches using the surface to train local youngsters, there will also be a weekly community cohesion session and regular holiday coaching programmes.
“This is a win-win as local people benefit from the Club’s first-class outreach work, these strong links will create a talent pathway for the most promising youngster to potentially join the Leicester Academy.
“The impact that the Premier League, The FA, the Government and Sport England have achieved thanks to their investment through the Football Foundation since 2000 is immense. It is a very special and unique partnership that is making a massive difference developing new facilities like this across the country.
“This is just one all-weather pitch me and Matt Elliott have launched today, but there are another 600 like this across the country that the Foundation has funded – and there are nearly 1,000 changing pavilions that its Funding Partners’ investment has developed.”
Matt Elliott, said: “Having played for Leicester for many years, it was extra special to open Wreak Valley’s new pitch – even more so given I was able to do it alongside Dion. A lot of credit needs to be given for making this happen, particularly to the Premier League, The FA and the Government through Sport England for providing the investment required to build a facility of such quality.
“The pitch will provide local grassroots footballers of all ages and abilities with a place to come and enjoy playing football. The pitch that was here previously couldn’t keep pace with demand but that won’t be a problem with the new surface, which is also floodlit meaning play can continue even when the nights draw in early.
“I’m particularly delighted to see that Leicester City’s Community Trust are also already so heavily involved with the pitch. A Leicester City coach on a new 3G pitch will be a powerful source of inspiration for budding young footballers whether they are playing the sport just to keep fit and healthy or have aspirations of playing the game professionally.
Andy Winter, Academy Business Manager, said: “We are delighted to have been able to add the 3G pitch to our excellent facilities. We wish to thank Dion Dublin and Matt Elliott for opening the facility and for Leicester City FC’s Community Trust to run coaching courses here.
“We are very grateful to the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, Leicestershire County Council, Charnwood Borough Council and Syston Town Council for their financial contributions towards this project, which will now enable us to provide enhanced playing facilities as well as delivering great player development and coaching opportunities to improve grass roots football in Syston.”
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