Kevin Davies, Bolton Wanderers all-time Premier League leading goalscorer was on-hand to officially open a third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) for Ladybridge High School recently (Wednesday 11 July). The new facility was made possible thanks to investment from Bolton Council and the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.

The grant enabled Ladybridge High School to install a new state-of-the-art 3G AGP, replacing a grass pitch that was unsuitable for football due to inadequate drainage and the inability to withstand the harsh weather conditions.

The new pitch has been installed with floodlights, enabling increased capacity and availability of the school’s facilities thanks to it being usable during the evening. Not only will pupils at the school benefit from the facility, but also players from Bolton Wanderers Ladies team and local community groups will gain increased sporting programmes.

Bolton Wanderers FC Community Trust also plan to use the site to deliver weekly Premier League Kicks sessions. The school had previously not provided any disabled usage on the site during school time, but will now be able to offer eight hours per week for Ladybridge pupils and another two local schools will benefit with this.

Ladybridge High School were awarded a £143,302 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the project. Bolton Council also made an investment of £400,000 from its capital budget. The school worked alongside the Football Foundation and Manchester County FA to compile a five-year Football Development Plan, which is a vision of how sport will be played on-site with an emphasis on increasing participation.

The new pitch is set to enable a growth from 47 to 71 teams in junior and adult formats, with 11 new male and four female Under-15 teams. This will support a predicted increase of nearly 530 players and is expected to result in a 689% increase in football participation in the Over-26 age bracket. This is thanks to the formation of new open-age teams.

Significant growth in the number of female players using the site is also expected, with six new women and girls’ teams. This has been identified as a key objective to deliver and is expected to create a 491% increase in participation within that demographic.

Founded in 2000, the Football Foundation is the largest sports charity in the UK funded by the Premier League, The FA and Government, via Sport England. It develops new and refurbished grassroots sports facilities in order to improve the quality and experience of playing sport at the grassroots level. Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded 18,000 grants worth more than £638m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of £841m – totalling almost £1.5bn of investment into the grassroots game.

Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 490 grants worth £13.8m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £32.2m across the whole of Lancashire.

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.

Kevin Davies, who played for Bolton Wanderers for a decade, said: “Having enjoyed some of the best years of my career at Bolton, it is fantastic to see the local area benefitting from first class facilities like this one at Ladybridge High School. With Bolton Community Trust using this 3G pitch to deliver Premier League Kicks sessions, you never know, it might help to unearth the next star who could help take us back to the Premier League!

“Huge credit must go to the Premier League, FA and Government for investing in projects like this and giving kids the best opportunity to develop their skills on better playing surfaces. They have supported over £32m worth of community sports projects across Manchester like this one, and this is set to continue in the future.

“I would also like to commend Bolton Council for investing in new sports facilities across the borough and actively encouraging more people to participate in grassroots sport. I believe that projects like this can only have a positive impact on football in this part of Bolton.”

John Byrne, Executive Cabinet Member for Culture in Bolton, said: “This pitch will provide a high quality, modern facility which can be used all year round, in any weather.

“The joint investment from the council and the Football Foundation into this state of the art pitch will benefit the whole community. We have invested in a number of 3G pitches across the borough which we hope will encourage more people to play sports, particularly at a grassroots level.”

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “Grassroots sport plays an important role in communities across the UK, creating opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. That is why I am delighted that Ladbybridge High School has now opened their state-of-the-art all-weather pitch in Bolton, thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.

“Continuing to improve access to high-quality facilities like this one is a key aim for the Premier League, The FA and the Government. Delivered by the Football Foundation, their funding supports projects for clubs and organisations all over the country and is helping to boost the number of people benefiting from sport through better facilities.

“Grassroots football provides so many benefits for members of the community, not least of which is the opportunity to enjoy themselves. Love for our national game, something that can be found across the country, is an integral part of what drives the Foundation and its Funding Partners to keep increasing the standards and quality of our facilities.”