Improved grass pitches just the start for Rastrick Junior FC
Rastrick Junior FC have made significant improvements to their grass pitches thanks to funding from the Premier League, The FA and Government’s Football Foundation. Now the club is set to benefit from fresh investment after being awarded a £247k grant to build a brand-new clubhouse at their Carr Green home in Rastrick, West Yorkshire.
With 24 teams, and over 400 players and counting, Rastrick JFC is a thriving junior football club located in West Yorkshire. The club caters for boys and girls across all junior age groups, from Mini Kickers to U17s.
Based at a council-owned site in Carr Green, Rastrick Juniors started their pitch improvement journey when they were approached to apply for a six-year tapered grant from the Football Foundation to carry out enhanced grass pitch maintenance. At the time, the club’s 10 grass pitches were in very poor condition.
“Before our grass pitch maintenance grant, we had problems with drainage and the pitches were very compacted and full of weeds because of this. Grass coverage wasn’t great and what grass we did have was quite long. Our pitches are also on three levels and this can be quite difficult as each level has to be treated differently so it was quite a challenge for us,” Martin Ford, Chair of Rastrick JFC, explained.
In March 2020, the club were awarded a £77k grant to carry out the maintenance works recommend by experts at the Grounds Management Association (GMA) in their PitchPower Assessment Report.
“When we applied for the grant, the main thing we were trying to achieve was to make the playing surface better and minimise the number of postponements or need to move to 3G pitches elsewhere at a significant cost to the club. We’re a charity, so it is vital to keep an eye on costs,” Martin said.
Thanks to their grass pitch funding, Rastrick Juniors have been able to carry out significant maintenance work to improve their grass pitches and have been able to negotiate with their contractor to maximise the value of their grant:
“It’s been pretty impressive the work we’ve been able to do. We’ve been able to put down fertiliser and carry out verti-draining, overseeding, top-dressing and selective weed-killing. Our contractor knows the money is there over a six-year period, and if he does a good job, we’re not going to go to anyone else, so we’ve been able to negotiate with him on price to get the most out of our grant.”
And the work put it is already paying off. In just 18 months, Rastrick JFC has seen a huge improvement in the quality of their grass pitch surfaces. Already, fewer games have been called off compared to previous seasons and the standard of the football being played has increased. Players and coaches can now rely on the club’s pitches for games to go ahead, creating more opportunities to play for the local community.
Speaking of the improvements they’ve made, Martin said: “We’ve noticed a real clear difference in the pitches and the way they play ever since we started our pitch improvement journey. Just getting the game on is one thing but how it plays is another entirely. You can see in the type of football being played how far our pitches have come thanks to the funding and the work we’ve been able to do. Both sides play good football because the pitches are of a standard where that’s possible.
“We don’t even have to check the pitches. We’ve had games go ahead recently where it has rained heavily the night before and had this been a few years ago, the game just wouldn’t have been on. Standing water we’ve had previously is no longer there and if there ever is any, it drains away quickly because the soil is that good now.”
The impact of having quality grass pitches at Carr Green is evident across the club and visitors often comment on how good the surfaces are. However, it’s made a particular difference to the younger age groups of Rastrick JFC.
“It is important the kids get the pitches they deserve really. Having better quality grass pitches has made a difference to all our teams but especially the younger ones. You see them playing now and it would have been horrible for them a couple of years ago whereas now it’s almost like they are playing on a 3G and that’s great.”
To be eligible to apply for grass pitch maintenance funding, clubs and organisations must use PitchPower – the Football Foundation’s ground-breaking web app which puts the ability to carry out grass pitch inspections in your hand.
Martin said: “PitchPower is a great way for someone who is just starting out to improve their grass pitch knowledge and help them identify the areas of the pitch that need looking at. This also helps them know what they should be looking for each week rather than just when the submissions are required as part of your grant.
“I went down and did a PitchPower inspection for our local high school too to try and help them improve the grass pitches they have on site which hopefully we can then also use and benefit from as we’re running out of space at our site.”
It’s this sharing of grass pitch knowledge and the formation of partnerships between clubs and organisations which is key to the Football Foundation’s mission to transform the quality of grass pitches across the country. Sharing knowledge and working together helps to bring up the standard of all the grass pitches in a local area, meaning more opportunities to play and get active.
“Passing on information is really important. We’re all volunteers and aren’t able to do this forever. For me and across the whole country really, it’s about making sure that groundskeeping knowledge and expertise is passed on to the next person,” Martin agreed.
“I’m a member of the Football Foundation’s Online Groundskeeping Community and it’s a really useful platform for sharing knowledge, not just for volunteers but for professional groundskeepers too. Just being able to see what good and bad practice is and what things to look out for helps a lot – it’s invaluable really.”
It’s not just the club’s grass pitch maintenance grant which has helped improve their pitches. Rastrick JFC also received funding through the Football Foundation for wheeled goalposts. This has allowed the club to move pitches around, even mid-season if needs be, to ensure areas which are struggling are rested.
“For anyone starting out on their grass pitch improvement journey, I would say that planning is crucial. It’s important you put a bit of effort in and do a little research yourself – ask the right companies, ask the right people and get a couple of options,” Martin said.
“Also, doing a bit of learning, planning what you need and recording what you’ve done and the costings for it is key. By recording everything, you can then pass this knowledge on. I’ve found it really helpful to refer back to what work that has been done and what time of year certain maintenance tasks need to be carried out, especially as a volunteer when you don’t have a lot of time to go back through invoices.”
Now Rastrick Junior FC have secured Football Foundation funding for a new clubhouse – a project identified as a priority on Calderdale’s Local Football Facility Plan (LFFP) – and have big plans for the future. Currently, the club have no facilities on site. This development will provide a clubhouse, complete with toilets, changing rooms, communal social and learning areas, a kitchen and servery, as well as internal and external viewing platforms. Having access to top quality sports facilities will benefit not only the club, but their local community too.
Martin said: “This award helps ensure we can continue to improve the work we do for young people as well as the wider community.
“Our Carr Green home is unique in the local area and will provide the basis for the club to develop the quality of provision for the children of Rastrick and the surrounding area for generations to come. Once our clubhouse is in place, we plan to develop a disability football section and expand our offering for women & girls’ football.”