Norwich City FC legend Darren Huckerby officially opened Long Stratton Leisure Centre’s new third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) recently (Thursday 12 January 2016), with Canaries’ defender Russell Martin also backing the project.
The state-of-the-art facility will be used extensively by the local community, with Long Stratton High School and Long Stratton FC delivering sessions to grow and develop local football. The new AGP includes three 5-a-side pitches and will host weekly 9-a-side competition.
The pitch is the first step in the creation of a multisport ‘hub’ that will address the current and future sporting needs of both Long Stratton and the surrounding villages.
During the planning process, South Norfolk Council worked alongside Long Stratton FC, the Football Foundation and Norfolk FA to compile a five-year Football Development Plan, a long-term vision for how sport will be enhanced at the new facility.
As part of this plan, Long Stratton FC are expected to create nine new teams, with the club offering coaching qualifications on-site to ensure each of their teams benefit from a Level One coach.
The £440,000 project was funded through investment from South Norfolk Council, Long Stratton High School, Long Stratton FC and a grant of £216,598 from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.
Since 2000 the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 200 grants worth £7.3m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £16.3m across the whole of Norfolk.
The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund provides grants towards developing new or refurbished grassroots football facilities. It is funded by the Premier League, The FA, and the Government, via Sport England. Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded around 15,000 grants worth nearly £580m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of just under £800m – over £1.4bn of investment into the grassroots game.
Darren Huckerby, who lives locally and now works at Norwich City FC as their Under-16s coach, said: “What a brilliant new pitch this is! My playing days and subsequent role as a coach have made me appreciate just how important these types of facilities are, with youngsters needing to get out there and enjoy their football on top quality playing surfaces.
“The area holds a special place in my heart and I’m delighted that so many in the local community will benefit from a real grassroots hub. I’d like to thank all those involved in the project, notably South Norfolk Council and Long Stratton High School, and importantly, the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund for providing generous investment behind the new pitch.”
Russell Martin, the Norwich City FC star who is also an Ambassador for the Football Foundation, welcomed the new state-of-the-art facility. He said: “I’m delighted to see another fantastic grassroots football facility open in Norwich. Last April I visited the Open Academy’s new all-weather pitch and jointly-opened another major community sports site at Youngs Park in Aylsham that were both funded by the Football Foundation. It is brilliant to have another local football hub, where so many youngsters and adults can enjoy their sport, now opening its doors to the public.
“And the Football Foundation is launching these types of facilities up and down the country every week thanks to money provided by its funding partners: the Premier League, The FA and the Government, through Sport England. So more and more people can feel all of the benefits of regular activity, such as staying healthy and developing crucial life-skills like communication and team work.
“These facility projects take a lot of work so all of the local partners that were involved in getting this development at Long Stratton complete deserve massive credit, as it will be there as a major asset for local people for many years to come.”
Cllr Clayton Hudson, cabinet member for Stronger Communities and Leisure, South Norfolk Council, said: “This is a fantastic facility and one of the best artificial pitches in the region. The health and well-being of our residents is a priority for the Council and this is the next step in our investment in leisure facilities across the district.
“This is a fantastic example of partners working together to provide the sporting facilities and opportunities that our residents have been asking for. It’s important that we invest in the infrastructure that the village will need to service the increased demand that the planned 1,800 new homes will bring.”
Dr Roger Harris, Head Teacher of Long Stratton High School (LSHS), said: “We are pleased to be a part of this project resulting in a fantastic 3G pitch on the school site. It comes at an exciting time for the school where this asset will be used to enhance the PE curriculum and out of school activities for students at LSHS. We are delighted that this project can benefit the whole of the community in addition to our students. Our thanks go to all involved in the project.”
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “I am delighted that a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund has enabled South Norfolk Council to build a fantastic new all-weather pitch – this development will provide a real boost to sport in the local area. Our Ambassador Russell Martin is excited to see more youngsters playing football and I’d like to thank Darren Huckerby for officially opening the new facility.
“Since 2000, the Football Foundation has supported grassroots projects worth more than £1.4bn, investing into areas where the need is greatest and where it will have the biggest impact in terms of getting more people playing football and a wide range of other sports.
“With this funding, provided by the Premier League, The FA and the Government, through Sport England, we are helping to improve community sports facilities across the country and thereby the playing experience of those who take part. This latest project in South Norfolk is the latest addition to the inventory of modern community sports sites we are developing that cater for the needs of local people who want to play sport purely for the love of it and to stay healthy.”
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