Date published: 23/06/2015
Former Arsenal FC, Middlesbrough FC and England midfielder and current Sky Sports presenter, Paul Merson, unveiled a brand new £550,000 third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) in Lincoln yesterday, following a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation and provides grants towards developing new or refurbished grassroots football facilities.
Paul Merson, who also played for Portsmouth FC and Aston Villa FC during a long career, cut the ribbon at The Priory City of Lincoln Academy’s (PCLA) new pitch, which will be used by the pupils at the school, local grassroots teams and the community at large.
The all-weather, floodlit facility was made possible thanks to a £250,000 grant awarded by the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, alongside £300,000 from The Priory Federation of Academies Trust. The pitch will be available to students at the school, as well as grassroots teams across the city including partner clubs Birchwood Colts FC, Hykeham Tigers FC, St Helens FC and Hykeham Town FC.
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 £530m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £740m – over £1.3bn of investment into the grassroots game.
Since its inception in 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 211 grants worth £12m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £39m across the whole of Lincolnshire.
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.
Paul Merson said: “This is a lovely pitch, it’s so perfect it makes me want to pull my boots on again and have a game! I wish I had been able to play on something like this when I was growing up. We need more facilities like this in England if we are going to produce more players for all level of the game. Credit has to go to the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, the Football Foundation and The Priory Federation of Academies Trust for making this happen.”
Mrs Jane Hopkinson, Headteacher at the Academy, said: “We were delighted that Paul Merson was as impressed as the rest of the community with what is a wonderful new facility. The 3G pitch will dramatically improve local access to grassroots sport and it simply wouldn’t have been possible without the grant from The Premier League & FA Facilities Fund.”
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 The Priory City of Lincoln Academy to complete this project. This development will provide a real boost to sport in the local area. A special thanks must go to Paul Merson for taking time out to open the new pitch.
“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 Lincoln 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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