Former Premier League referee Chris Foy goes back to school to unveil new all weather pitch in Manchester

Chris Foy, former Premier League referee and current Head of Community and Public Engagement for the PGMOL, was back at school yesterday (Wednesday 13 September) to unveil Manchester Communication Academy’s brand new all-weather pitch. Thanks to a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, delivered by the Football Foundation, the school was able to install the new playing surface – expected to boost football participation at the site by 96%. 

The new floodlit third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) will not only benefit the Academy’s pupils, who will get to use the pitch as part of their PE curriculum, but also local clubs including: Moston Tigers JFC; Manchester Lions JFC; partner clubs Abraham Moss FC (AMFC) and Moston Valley JFC (MVJFC). 

Manchester City in the Community will deliver weekly community outreach sessions using the new pitch, and the Manchester FA will also use it as a venue for FA coach education. Street League, a charity using sport to improve the employability of young people, will use the site for recreational and summer programmes. 

The Academy worked alongside the Manchester FA and the Football Foundation 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 3G AGP is in addition to the school’s existing grass pitch, doubling their playing space and giving the Academy and AMFC the ability to expand. 

Across the Academy and partner clubs AMFC and MVJFC, it is expected that 28 new teams will be introduced. This will be supported by the school’s efforts to establish the new North Manchester Girls and Boys Club, increasing the number of junior teams available in the area. Four new disability football sides will be established, taking the total from two to six. 

The provision for open age and veteran football will also rise from four teams to seven, boosting football participation for those over the age of 26 by 123% at the site. The school will also work to strengthen their links with AMFC further, to improve player pathways. This will help to boost female football participation at the facility by 309%, by making it easier for girls on the school’s teams to enter the senior club after they turn 16. 

The club worked in partnership with the Manchester FA to secure a £547,855 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation. 

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 around 15,000 grants worth more than £580m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £800m – £1.4bn of investment into the grassroots game. 

Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 217 grants worth £15.3m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £32.1m across the whole of Manchester. 

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. 

Chris Foy, who officiated the 2010 FA Cup final between Chelsea FC and Portsmouth FC, said: “I’d like to thank Manchester Communication Academy for inviting me to open their brand new 3G AGP. This is a brilliant new pitch, and it was great to see it in action. Many professional players find their start at school and grassroots clubs. The pupils and local youth players here are really lucky to have access to this state-of-the-art facility. 

“I have been a long-time supporter of the Football Foundation’s work, and this is yet another example of how they are able to help communities through improving football facility provision. Their funding from the Premier League, The FA and the Government, through Sport England, is hard at work across the country making football more accessible for all.” 

Martin Roberts, Assistant Principal at Manchester Communication Academy, said: “I’d like to thank Chris Foy for officially opening our fantastic new facility. This is a significant investment in the future of grassroots football in North Manchester, made possible thanks to the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund. We will work hard with our local clubs to maximise this opportunity afforded to us, to grow the game and in achieving wider social benefits along the way.”

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund provides the investment necessary to improve grassroots football facilities. So, I am delighted to see Manchester Communication Academy join thousands of local clubs and organisations who have reaped its benefit, in this case through the opening of a new all-weather pitch. My thanks go to Chris Foy for taking the time to unveil the new facility.

“Having delivered over £1.4bn of grassroots sports infrastructure projects, the Football Foundation has developed a network of accessible, first-class facilities in areas they will have the greatest impact – thanks to money from the Premier League, The FA and the Government via Sport England.

“These facilities are more than places to play football at, these facilities are hubs of physical activity, the bedrock of local communities and ‘homes from home’ for so many who also use them as social outlets to learn new skills, gain work experience and other qualifications.”