Gateshead Redheugh 1957 FC kicked off their pitch improvement project during a Newcastle United Foundation holiday camp yesterday (Tuesday 10 April), following the arrival of their state-of-the-art ground maintenance equipment. The project was made possible thanks to a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.

The investment enabled Gateshead Redheugh 1957 FC to purchase pitch maintenance equipment, including a brand new tractor and mower system, which will help to improve the quality of the club’s four grass pitches. It is expected that fewer fixture and training cancellations will occur as a result, and overall use of the pitches will receive a boost thanks to the playing surface improvement project.

This will benefit the club’s 24 teams, ranging from Under-7 to senior level, in addition to other users. These include Newcastle United Foundation, who deliver a selection of community outreach sessions at Gateshead Redheugh 1957 FC’s ground, as well as Dunston UTS FC and Saltwell FC.

Players are also able to take advantage of a third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP), which was refurbished in 2014 thanks to a £456,911 grant from the Premier League, The FA and the Government via Sport England. The three organisations also invested £102,000, through the Football Foundation, for a new changing pavilion at the site, which was officially opened by Alan Pardew back in 2012.

The club were awarded a £23,403 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the new equipment. Gateshead Redheugh 1957 FC worked alongside the Football Foundation and the Durham 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.

Thanks to the improved surfaces, and the increase in playing capacity expected on-site as a result, Gateshead Redheugh 1957 FC hope to introduce ten brand new teams – taking their total to 34. Of these, four will be girls’ sides at the Under-10 to Under-14 levels.

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 over 17,000 grants worth more than £615m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of £817m – £1.4bn of investment into the grassroots game.

Since 2000 the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 287 grants worth £17.1m towards grassroots sports projects worth almost £50m across the whole of Durham.

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.

Terry Ritson, Senior Sports Coordinator for Gateshead Redheugh 1957 FC, said: “Gateshead Redheugh 1957 FC would like to thank the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund as the new equipment will help improve our four grass pitches and increase the amount of use over the football season. The main aim of the project is to provide the best quality surface possible for all teams to play on.”

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 Gateshead Redheugh 1957 now has state-of-the-art equipment to improve their pitches, 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.”