Arsenal legend Liam Brady opens 21M football hub in Islington

Former Arsenal midfielder Liam Brady was in Islington yesterday (Thursday 24 September 2015) to open a £2.1m football facility made possible thanks to grants from Arsenal FC, via the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, and Islington Council.

The refurbished site at Market Road, just off Caledonian Road, now boasts two resurfaced full-size third generation (3G) artificial grass pitches (AGPs), three new small-sided 3G AGPs and a six-team changing room complex complete with shower facilities, two officials’ rooms, office space, meeting room and secure storage areas.

In addition to the five new pitches and changing pavilion, the site is now home to vastly improved spectator viewing facilities, including raised walkways between each pitch.

The site has achieved local notoriety as the forefront facility for grassroots football and hosts the two main leagues in the borough: the Islington Midweek League and the Camden & Islington Youth League.

Thousands of amateur footballers will use these new provisions every week, knowing that the future of two of the borough’s most popular leagues has been secured for at least the next decade. It is expected that the five-a-side pitches will act as a stepping stone for teams looking to play the 11v11 format of the game in those leagues.

Arsenal in the Community will run a number of weekly sessions at the newly refurbished facility, working with local school and community groups.

When an artificial pitch was first installed at Market Road in 1972, it was the first of its kind in the country and although the facility had received refurbishment in the preceding years, none were to the standard that has just been completed.

The previous pitches were functional but worn and the changing rooms were serviceable but unwelcoming, all of which meant that the site was unable to meet to the huge local demand for football.

Islington Council worked in partnership with the London FA to secure the £832,000grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.

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 2000 the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 273 grants worth £26.5m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £65m across the whole of London.

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.

Liam Brady, former Arsenal player, Academy Manager and current Arsenal Foundation Ambassador, said: “Market Road’s football pitches have been a big part of the borough for over 40 years, since my playing days, so it’s great to come down here and see the centre is now home to fantastic new playing surfaces and changing rooms. Credit to the Premier League, The FA, Islington Council and the club for making it happen. 

“Good facilities are so important for encouraging young players to get out and play the game, and it’s the sort of place that Arsenal has always scouted for our next generation of players too. You never know, Market Road could help develop the next Jack Wilshere or Kieran Gibbs.” 

Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Council's Deputy Leader and executive member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “The council is committed to supporting all of our residents to live healthy, independent lives, and making the borough a fantastic place to live and work. Islington has one of the England’s highest rates for sport participation and it’s vital we keep that energy and momentum going.

“These improvement works will help make Market Road one of London’s finest football facilities, and give local people, of all ages, a better opportunity to practice and play together. The borough is already home to a world-class football club; new facilities like Market Road could help the next Jack Wilshere or Theo Walcott to develop their skills.”

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, added: “The Football Foundation is responsible for managing and delivering the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is funded by the Premier League, The FA and the Government, via Sport England. These five 3G pitches and changing rooms are an example of the positive impact that this funding is having on our grassroots game. First-class facilities like this are crucial to creating more opportunities for local people to enjoy regular sport. A special thanks to Liam Brady for taking time out to open this complex.

“Aided by the London FA, Islington Council and Arsenal FC, Market Road deserves huge credit for taking a vision and turning it into a reality, using funding provided by the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund. Sport has the power to make a positive impact on the health of communities and this wonderful new facility will improve the sporting experience of local people and encourage them to be more active.”