Sports Minister and local MP for Chatham and Aylesford, Tracey Crouch, and Football Foundation Chief Executive, Paul Thorogood, officially opened The Victory Academy’s new third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) in Medway today (Friday 18 November 2016). The project was made possible thanks to a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation, and replaces a field that was prone to waterlogging.
Local professional side Gillingham FC will be a key user of the site. The English Football League Division One club’s Advanced Academy for Boys will use the facilities to coach young footballers aged 15-16 from all over Kent, while Gillingham Ladies FC will use the facility as a training base. The Academy will become the home ground for Meridian Girls and Ladies FC, who will use the AGP and grass pitches for training and league matches.
The new all-weather floodlit facility will be used all-year-round, during both the day and evenings, by The Victory Academy’s 682 pupils, whose PE lessons will no longer be curtailed by wet weather or because it gets dark. Several other local primary and secondary schools will also use the facility to deliver curricular and extra-curricular activities.
Local grassroots clubs including: Chatham Town FC; Real 60 FC; FC Borstal; Maidstone United Youth FC and The Medway Youth League, will all call the new facility home. Additionally, The Victory Academy has partnered with Pro Soccer to create a Football Academy for Sixth Form students.
Football Academy students attend The Victory Academy Sixth Form part of the week, studying their choice from a range of Vocational and A-Level courses, including BTEC Sport. The rest of the week is spent developing their footballing skills, while training and playing under the guidance of FA and UEFA qualified coaches.
There will also be weekly Under-18 matches against other teams across Kent, plus the opportunity to gain qualifications through accredited FA and UEFA courses on coaching, refereeing and first aid.
The official opening at The Victory Academy marked a return for Tracey Crouch MP, who has taken a very close interest in this project, despite her busy schedule. She made time to attend a cheque presentation ceremony in November 2015 when the Football Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer, Dave McDermott, presented the Academy with a cheque for £519,979 from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which has made the project possible. Tracey has been a committed supporter of the Academy and has participated in many of the school’s events over the years, including hosting information days for pensioners, speaking at International Women’s Day and coaching Meridian Girls & Ladies FC who now use the facility!
Through the development of this project, The Victory Academy has worked in partnership with the Football Foundation and Kent FA to establish a five-year Football Development Plan (FDP) – a long-term vision for how sport will be played at the new facility. Workforce development represents a key focus of this FDP and The FA will deliver its coach education, leadership and volunteering courses at the Medway site.
The project was made possible thanks to a £519,797 grant from The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is funded by the Premier League, The FA, and the Government, via Sport England. The Fund provides grants towards new or refurbished grassroots football facilities across the country.
The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund 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 nearly £580m towards improving grassroots facilities. This has been used to attract a further £800m of partnership funding, which means that the Football Foundation has been able to invest more than £1.4bn into community grassroots sports facilities, a significant amount of which has helped some of the most deprived communities in the country.
Focusing specifically on Kent, since 2000 the Football Foundation has provided 348 grants into projects worth nearly £32m across the county. This includes 18 3G AGPs, 33 changing room pavilions and the development of 56 natural grass pitches.
By providing more high-quality facilities, coupled with coaching at the appropriate age group, the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund aims to help retain regular players as well as attracting new players by giving them the best possible experience of participating in our national game. These new state-of-the-art facilities will also serve to strengthen the connection between professional football clubs and their local communities, particularly in the most deprived areas of the country, by providing a quality location for professional club community outreach schemes.
Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch MP, said: “All weather pitches like this one at The Victory Academy are absolutely vital. Good facilities help to encourage people to play sport and gain from the physical, social and mental benefits that the game offers. Having coached a local team myself I have seen first-hand the importance of having access to quality facilities all-year-round.
“This facility shows what can be achieved when the Government, the Premier League and The FA work together in partnership. This significant joint investment into state-of-the-art artificial pitches will not just help increase the numbers of people playing the game but will also result in more youngsters gaining coaching and refereeing qualifications.”
Mrs Mandy Gage, Principal of the Victory Academy, said: “We are so grateful for the continued support of the Academy from Tracey Crouch MP and her personal involvement with the rise of girls’ football in the area, as well as the support she provides to sport in general. We thank the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund and the Football Foundation, for all their hard work and financial commitment to improve grassroots sport, particularly within the Medway area.
“This excellent new facility will benefit students, local clubs, schools and the wider community. It is the culmination of the efforts of a huge team of people who put children and the importance of sport at the forefront of developing our future generations and we thank each and every one of them.”
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “I am delighted that this grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund has enabled this wonderful new all-weather pitch to be built at The Victory Academy. This development will provide a real boost to sport in the local area and I would like to thank the Football Foundation’s funding partners – the Premier League, The FA and the Government, via Sport England – for making it all possible. I would also like to thank the Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch MP, for taking such a great interest in this project and for taking the time out of her busy parliamentary schedule to officially open it today.
“This project in Kent is just the latest example of many we have developed across the country that are supporting the needs of local people who want to play sport purely for the love of doing so, to stay healthy. 3G AGP technology provides the best possible surface for coaching – both during the day and the evenings and in all weathers – which helps coaches to develop and nurture talent, which is important. If people see that they are improving in any sport, they are more likely to keep coming back.”
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