Local hero Ian Marsden, a bronze medallist in the 200m para-canoe at Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, officially unveiled Stafford Borough Council and Stafford Town FC’s new state-of-the-art third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) at Evans Park recently (Sunday 23 October). The project was made possible thanks to a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.
Through this project, on-site sports participation is set to rise by 320%, with Stafford Town FC, who currently play in Division One of the Midland Football League, expected to create 16 further teams as a result. These outcomes are projected as part of the five-year Football Development Plan (FDP) – a long-term vision for how sport will be played at the new facility – developed by the Council and the club alongside the Football Foundation and Staffordshire FA.
As part of the FDP, Stafford Town FC, who currently boast 31 teams to their name, ranging from Under-7s right through to Under-18s, will focus on youth development to help progress players through their transition from junior to 11v11 football.
The project has enabled the club to replace their previous natural grass pitch, that was prone to waterlogging and subsequent cancellation of weekly league fixtures, with a brand new 3G playing surface that can be used all-year-round. Upgrades to the car park have also been made, improving spectator access to and from the ground.
The project was made possible thanks to a £536,944 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation, and a further £62,673 grant from the Premier League, through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF), the largest funders of non-league football in the country.
Since 2000 the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 199grants worth £17m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £33m across the whole of Staffordshire.
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 £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.
Funded with £5.2m each year from the Premier League, the FSIF is the country’s largest provider of grants towards projects that help improve the comfort and safety of lower league football grounds in both the professional and amateur game. These improvements range from new football stands and turnstiles to floodlighting and improved provision for disabled supporters.
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.
Ian Marsden said: “It's great to be back in Stafford, where my sporting career started, following my success at the Rio Paralympics and to be given the opportunity to open these new facilities that will help inspire the next generation. I’m pleased to have officially opened Evans Park’s new 3G pitch in an area that is very important to me. The facilities are really impressive and ensure our youngsters have the platform to express themselves, enjoy their sport and make the most of their potential.
“Having had such a brilliant experience competing and medalling in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, I really do understand the huge value of these local grassroots facilities that help bring through the next generation of elite sport stars.
I’d like to thank all those involved in the project – Stafford Borough Council, Stafford Town FC and importantly, the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund for their great financial support towards a project that will support the local Stafford community for years to come!”
Gordon Evans, Chairman, Stafford Town FC, said: “We have worked closely with Stafford Borough Council to enable us to secure the funding to deliver this first class pitch which we hope will benefit organisations across the community, as well as Stafford Town teams.
“The money from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund was vital in being able to make this happen and our new facility will help grow the game and benefit so many players at the grassroots level of the sport.”
Peter McCormick OBE, Chairman of the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, said:“The new 3G pitch here for Stafford Town FC is absolutely fantastic. The facilities are of the highest quality and will enable the club to really push on and progress for years to come.
“Evans Park is an important ground to many in the Stafford area, particularly to those fans who come here week in week out to watch their local side. This project is further proof of the Premier League’s fantastic work, through the FSIF, that supports grassroots stadia infrastructure right across the country. I wish the club all the best for the future.”
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 Stafford Borough Council and Stafford Town FC to build a brand new 3G pitch at Evans Park. This development will provide a real boost to sport in the local area and a special thanks must go to Ian for helping open the new facility.
“Since 2000, the Football Foundation has supported grassroots projects worth more than £1.3bn, 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 Stafford 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 if it and to stay healthy.”
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