Lord Pendry opens Merseyside Football Hub to the delight of the Sports Minister as recent investment in the area passes 1M

Since June of this year, investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund into Merseyside’s grassroots football scene has topped £1m, news that has pleased the Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP. 

Most recently (Monday 11 September) Lord Pendry, the President of the Football Foundation, opened Kirkby Leisure Centre’s new state-of-the-art all-weather pitch. This follows the unveiling of Earlestown Athletic JFC’s grass pitches facility, also opened by Lord Pendry, and the St. Helens multi-sports hub. Former Everton FC player Graham Stuart, the Rt Hon. George Howarth, MP for Knowsley, and Cllr. Frank Walsh, Mayor of Knowsley, were also in attendance. 

Thanks to the grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation, Volair (a not-for-profit organisation owned by Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council) has installed a state-of-the-art all-weather pitch at Kirkby Leisure Centre, which is expected to increase overall football participation at the site by 927%. 

The new third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) comprises a full-size 11v11 pitch, with the flexibility to provide two 9v9 pitches, two 7v7 pitches and four 5v5 pitches. Users of the playing surface will include partner club Quarry Green FC (QGFC), other local clubs and local leagues. 

Everton in the Community (EITC) will also utilise the site to hold Premier League Kicks sessions. The Liverpool FA will take advantage of the new pitch to deliver two FA Level One courses and an FA Module One course each year. There are also plans to hold walking football sessions at the facility. 

Volair worked alongside the Liverpool 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. 

Thanks to EITC’s involvement and Volair's plans to run Mini-Soccer leagues, use of the facility by those aged 14 and under is expected to increase by 1,343%. Additionally, 17 new teams will be established across the 3G AGP’s users, including two female sides. There are also plans for a disability football team, which will compete in the Liverpool Ability Counts League. 

The Knowsley area has a rich history of producing football stars. Phil Thompson and Dennis Mortimer, who were born and attended school in the local area, both won the European Cup as captains of their respective teams. In 1981, Thompson led Liverpool FC to victory, and was followed in the feat by Mortimer, who skippered Aston Villa FC to European success in 1982. 

Volair worked in partnership with the Liverpool FA to secure a £479,999 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, delivered by the Football Foundation. This is in addition to other funding secured, with the project cost totalling more than £610,000.

Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 402 grants worth £18.1m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £77.8m across the whole of Liverpool. This includes 17 new or refurbished 3G AGPs.

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.

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.

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP said: “Sport can have such a positive impact on the lives of people, helping to improve physical and mental health and bringing communities together. Facilities such as this new-all weather pitch at Kirkby are vital in helping to encourage more people to get involved in sport. 

“This is the latest facility in Merseyside that has benefited from more than £1 million recent investment in the area from the Premier League, FA and government, in our partnership with the Football Foundation. I hope this facility, as well as those opened in St Helens and Earlestown go from strength to strength.” 

The Rt Hon. George Howarth, MP for the Knowsley area, said: “I am very pleased to see this brand new all-weather pitch unveiled in our area, and I would like to thank Volair for inviting me to be a part of the official opening. The organisation has worked very hard to make this a success. 

“Thanks to their efforts in securing a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund and throughout the project, our community now has a state-of-the-art grassroots football facility, which I hope will encourage people to get fit and have fun.” 

Kevin Schofield, Managing Director of Volair, said: “It’s great news that we have been able to provide such high-class facilities in Knowsley, which wouldn’t have been possible without the grant we secured from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund. I’d like to thank Lord Pendry for doing the honours and officially unveiling our new facility. 

“This new pitch, with its 3G surface and floodlights, provides quality footballing facilities all year round and it will help to encourage and support more grassroots football in Knowsley - a borough which has produced a number of professional players including Steven Gerrard and Leighton Baines.” 

Lord Pendry, the President of the Football Foundation, said: “I would like to thank Volair for inviting me to officially unveil their brand new all-weather pitch. This is one of many state-of-the-art football facilities that the Foundation has funded, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to see it in action. The new pitch will encourage people in the area, of all abilities, to take part in physical activity and have fun. 

“The Football Foundation works to improve grassroots sports in England through the investment of the Premier League, The FA and the Government, through Sport England. This new pitch at Kirkby Leisure Centre is an excellent example of how the Foundation uses this money to provide better sporting facilities.”