Date published: 11/03/2014
Steve Taylor officially opened new a state-of-the-art new third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) behalf of John Spence Community High School and North Shields AFC. The Newcastle United star cut the ribbon at an opening ceremony held at the pitch, before taking the first official penalty against student Greg Purvis, Sunderland AFC’s Under-16 Academy goalkeeper.
Students at the school, including the five budding stars that play for Newcastle and Sunderland Academy sides, celebrated with a pre-opening game on the new facility that was funded with ££242,536 from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.
The previous AGP was laid in 1996 and nearing the end of its useful life, jeopardising the school’s PE provision and use of the site for community football. The funding will allow the school to upgrade to a safer and more user-friendly 3G playing surface. This will complement the four changing rooms on the site that were funded by a £250,000 grant from the Football Foundation, awarded to North Tyneside Council in 2004.
Managed by the school via a Football Facilities Management group, the upgrade will not only provide state-of-the-art training and playing facilities for the school, but will also significantly benefit their partner club, North Shields Juniors AFC – one of the largest FA Charter Standard Community Clubs in the region, with an impressive membership of over 900 young people.
The importance of the site for junior and adult grassroots football was highlighted in the local authority’s 2012 Playing Pitch Strategy, and the project will provide the final full-sized 3G AGP required in North Tyneside, based on the results of the mapping process conducted by The FA and Northumberland FA.
John Spence High School already provides a home ground for several of North Shields Juniors AFC’s 36 teams and the availability of the school’s natural turf pitches and full-sized sand-filled AGP have been integral to its success and growth to date. Supported by the new facilities, the Club has ambitions to reach a total of 48 teams in the next five years, including an expansion of their girls’ section and introduction of a disability team.
The school worked in partnership with North Shields Juniors AFC and the Northumberland Football Association and secure £242,536 from the Premier League & The FA facilities Fund towards the £324,536 project. Funded by the Premier League, The FA, and the Government, via Sport England, 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 supported more than 12,000 grassroots projects worth over £1 billion.
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..
Since 2000 the Football Foundation funding partners’ investment has provided 83 grants worth almost £10.5m towards grassroots sports projects worth £20m across the whole of Northumberland.
Additional funding was raised by the school and club to support the project.
Mr Jim Stephenson, Head teacher at John Spence Community High School, said: “The new playing facilities will enable members of the local community to enjoy football activities for the foreseeable future.”
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, added: “This is an outstanding new 3G AGP that will benefit football and other sports in and around North Shields. Developing new grassroots facilities, such as this, is essential to increasing the number of people who have a chance to stay fit and healthy through participating in sport.
“The Football Foundation is dedicated to improving sports sites across the country with investment from our funding partners – the Premier League, the FA, and the Government, via Sport England. I congratulate John Spence Community High School and the Northumberland FA for their hard work on this project.”
For more information about the work the Football Foundation is doing all over the country visit www.footballfoundation.org.uk or follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/FootballFoundtn.