talkSPORT presenter and Football Foundation Ambassador, Georgie Bingham, officially opened a third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) at Samuel Ryder Academy recently (Friday 12 October). Their new facility was made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation. 

The grant enabled Samuel Ryder Academy to install a full-size floodlit 106m x 70m 3G AGP, replacing part of the existing grass playing field. As an all-through school, the pitch will benefit children aged from 4 to 18 as well as partner football club, St Albans City Youth FC and the wider St Albans community.

In addition to the pitch being used by the Academy for curricular and extra-curricular activities, St Albans City Youth FC will use the site as a training facility. The club currently operates 86 teams, and the pitch will support it's development to retain players and grow to 94 teams overall, with 40 of those based at Samuel Ryder Academy.

The new all-weather pitch includes markings for 5v5, 7v7, 9v9 and 11v11 football, making it a very versatile addition to the sporting facilities at the Academy. The school is named after Samuel Ryder, who established the Ryder Cup in 1926. Samuel’s local golf club was Verulam Golf Club in St Albans, which describes itself as “The Home of The Ryder Cup”.

Watford FC Community Sports & Education Trust will use the site to deliver various community schemes as part of a Pro Club link with Samuel Ryder Academy. The club plan to deliver a weekly player development centre as well as week long holiday courses during school breaks.

Strong links between Hertfordshire County FA and Samuel Ryder Academy will see a range of accredited coaching awards delivered on the all-weather pitch, helping to prepare the next generation of coaches and officials.

Samuel Ryder Academy were awarded a £457,886 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the project. The school worked alongside the Football Foundation and Hertfordshire 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.

More than 850 people are expected to start playing football on the pitch over the next five years, which represents a growth of 224%. Of this, significant growth in the number of female players using the facility is also predicted. The formation of 16 girls’ teams will help to contribute to more than 250 new female footballers using the site, creating a 1604% growth.

Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 214 grants worth £10.8m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £19.5m across the whole of Hertfordshire FA.

Georgie Bingham, talkSPORT presenter and Football Foundation Ambassador, said: “Artificial pitches are such a great way of getting people to play football and enables local communities the chance to access quality facilities. The Football Foundation is vital to this and the continued commitment of the Premier League, The FA and the Government is safeguarding investment into community football. 

“I’ve said this so many times, but it is great to see girls and boys playing football together and enjoying themselves. Sport is a really important part of their growth and with enhanced facilities, there is so much that can be achieved. I would love to think that someone who learns and develops their skills on a Football Foundation funded pitch would one day go on to play for England.”