Date published: 17/03/2015
One of the Channel Islands’ most famous exports, Matt Le Tissier, was full of praise as Jersey’s first ever full-size third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) at Springfield Stadium, St Helier, was officially opened by Barry Bright, Leader of The FA Council, yesterday (Monday 16 March). The project was made possible thanks to a £400,000 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.
Former Southampton and England attacking midfielder Matt Le Tissier lauded the investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which has enabled the States of Jersey to convert the previous real grass pitch, a facility prone to waterlogging, at the Springfield Stadium into a full-size, floodlit 3G AGP, the first facility of this type on the densely populated Island.
Springfield Stadium, home of the Jersey FA, has always been the island’s premier football facility but participation at the site was restricted to just 50 league and representative matches a season. However, thanks to this investment, the St Helier area now possesses a high-quality, all-weather playing surface that can be utilised all-year round with forecasts suggesting it will be used by over 1,000 local people per week.
The Football Foundation worked with the Jersey FA to produce a five-year Football Development Plan, which is a vision for how football will be delivered at the site with the emphasis placed on increasing and maximising participation. The pitch will be used by nine FA Charter Standard Clubs, schools, the Education, Sport and Cultures's Community and School Sport department and by the Jersey FA for competitive fixtures. Additionally, Springfield Stadium will be a central venue for the 2015 Natwest Island Games, a global multi-sport event which attracts over 3,000 competitors in 14 sports every two years.
In recent years, the Jersey FA has developed relationships with the Youth Academies of Southampton FC and Manchester United FC. These reciprocal agreements have involved youth teams from the Jersey FA Capita Centre of Excellence travelling to each club for competitive fixtures and training and vice versa. It is hoped that these partnerships will be developed further thanks to the new 3G pitch.
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 13,000 grants worth more than £513m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £730m – over £1.2bn of investment into the grassroots 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. 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.
Barry Bright, Leader of The FA Council, commented: “It was an honour to be in Jersey to officially open the excellent new 3G pitch at Springfield Stadium. The second report from The FA Chairman's England Commission stressed the importance of investing in grassroots facilities, supporting coach development and avoiding participation decline amongst 16-21-year-olds. St Helier’s new 3G facility, which The FA has funded through the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, expertly delivered by the Football Foundation, is the perfect example of how football’s governing bodies are working together to tackle the issues highlighted by the Commission.
“The Jersey FA has produced a five-year Football Development Plan (FDP) which will ensure that the Springfield Stadium becomes a central hub for football on the densely-populated Island. The high-quality playing surface will enable football participation at the site to increase significantly and provide a venue for FA coach education courses, ensuring a sustainable future for football in Jersey. I’d like to thank everyone who helped make this project possible and I look forward to watching the development of football on the Island.”
Matt Le Tissier, Guernsey-born former Southampton FC captain, added: “Jersey now has a high quality 3G playing surface that will enable young grassroots players, as well as the wider local community, to play football all-year round, which is why these types of facility are so vital.
“I’ve seen myself, the excellent 3G pitch facilities that the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, delivered by the Football Foundation, is developing right across the country. Clearly playing football on these types of surface is going to be a far more attractive prospect for youngsters than on a quagmire, so they do help to get more people playing the game purely for pleasure of doing so which can only be a good thing.
“So who knows, we may see a few more talented youngsters developed in the Channel Islands as a result. The States of Jersey, Jersey FA and everyone that has worked hard to make this project a reality deserve huge credit for what they’ve achieved.”
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