Lord Pendry, President of the Football Foundation, former Manchester United and Scotland defender, Martin Buchan and the Civic Mayor of Tameside, Cllr Denise Ward, opened a fully refurbished third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) at Curzon Ashton FC recently (Wednesday 22 August). The facility improvements were made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.

The grant enabled Curzon Ashton FC, who currently play at Step 2 in the National League North, to improve their existing community 3G AGP, bringing it up to current FA guidelines for 3G AGP Design Principles and Pitch Layout. The new pitch supports 11v11, 9v9, 7v7 and 5v5 pitches and is FIFA Quality accredited.

The original pitch was completed in 2006 alongside work on the club’s Tameside Stadium, with both part-funded by the Football Foundation and Football Stadia Improvement Fund. Due to its age, the pitch was in a very poor state of repair and no longer met the required FA criteria.

Refurbishments made to the pitch, which sits adjacent to Curzon Ashton FC’s stadium, will provide extended community use through a variety of the club’s own programmes, as well as wider community organisations. The Tameside School Games Programme, Tameside College, Walking Football and the East Manchester Junior Football League will all also benefit from the upgraded facility.

Curzon Ashton FC were awarded a £367,483 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the project. The club worked alongside the Football Foundation and Manchester 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.

The upgraded pitch will enable Curzon Ashton FC to introduce 26 new teams over a five-year period, growing from 48 to 74 teams. This will support a predicted increase of approximately 350 players, which represents growth of 49%.

Significant growth in the number of female players at the club is also expected, with the number of female teams set to more than double over the five years, rising from nine to 20. The new teams will help to create a 94% increase in the number of girls playing competitive football for Curzon Ashton FC.

Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 231 grants worth £15.3m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £32.2m across the whole of Manchester.

Harry Twamley, Chairman of Curzon Ashton FC, said: “Curzon Ashton can’t thank the Football Foundation enough for their support, just as they did 12 years ago. The refurbished facility will give literally thousands of young people the opportunity to enjoy their sport over the next ten years.”

Football Foundation President, Lord Pendry, said: “It’s my pleasure to be a part of Curzon Ashton FC’s official opening for their refurbished 3G pitch. They have been able to upgrade their existing artificial pitch to a top quality facility, which will help them to keep on growing.

“I was especially pleased to hear how the new upgrade will help raise participation at the club, with the introduction of 26 new teams, which will attract around 350 new players to the club. Having served as an MP for more than thirty years representing Tameside, I know how much people value grassroots football in this area.

“Facilities such as this one are an excellent example of the hard work undertaken by the Football Foundation, who deliver these projects through generous funding from the Premier League, The FA and the Government, through Sport England.”