4 Jun 2021
England Assistant Women’s Coach Marieanne Spacey was at The Blandford School in Dorset recently (Wednesday 18 March) to officially open the school’s new full-size, floodlit third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP). The project was made possible thanks to a £350,000 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which provides grants towards developing new or refurbished grassroots football facilities.
Marieanne Spacey, former Arsenal and Fulham striker who as a player won every domestic honour and made 91 England appearances, opened the new 3G AGP, the first facility of this type in North Dorset. The new pitch will allow The Blandford School to provide pupils and members of the local community with a safe and secure environment to participate in sport all year round.The school will aim to offer competitive football opportunities to all children, irrespective of ability, and enable pupils to reach their full potential in football and guide talented individuals into appropriate club and coaching settings.
Strong partnerships are already in place with local grassroots club Blandford United FC who will regularly use the new 3G AGP for training and matches. The club, previous winners of FA National Charter Standard Community Club of the Year award, currently run 16 teams and are strongly committed to attracting new participants, particularly amongst girls and females. Overall, football participation in the area is set to increase by 69% over the next five years as a direct result of this new facility.
The school worked in partnership with the Dorset FA to secure a £400,000 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.
Dorset County Council also provided a grant of £420,429 towards the new 3G pitch and a further £77,000 in order to upgrade The Blandford School’s existing netball and tennis facilities, including the installation of floodlights.
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 £519m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £730m – over £1.2bn of investment into the grassroots game.
Since 2000 the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 84 grants worth £1.7m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £4.3m across the whole of Dorset.
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.
Marieanne Spacey, England Assistant Women’s Coach, remarked: “It was a privilege to open the excellent new 3G pitch at The Blandford School. The investment provided by the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation, has enabled the school to offer a stunning facility for the local community to utilise all-year round and in all weather conditions.
“It’s great to see money from the top of the professional game, through the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, being invested into the grassroots. High-quality playing surfaces are vitally important in aiding the technical development of young players and now pupils at The Blandford School and local clubs will be able to reap the benefits.”
Barry Williams, Assistant Headteacher, The Blandford School, said: “The new 3G pitch is a huge asset to both the school and local community. It will make a huge difference to grassroots sport in this area. We are very grateful to Dorset County Council and the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund for funding this fantastic new facility.”
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. This new 3G pitch is 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.
“Aided by the Dorset FA, The Blandford School 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. I’d also like to thank Marieanne Spacey, one of England’s greatest ever female footballers, for taking the time to open the new facility.”
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