Manchester United FC legend Bryan Robson unveils new home ground for Wythenshawe Amateurs FC

Bryan Robson OBE, famed former midfielder for Manchester United FC and England, officially opened Wythenshawe Amateurs FC’s new home ground at Hollyhedge Park recently (Sunday 6 May 2018). Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, also lent his support to the celebrations.

The Park has undergone significant development works to create a suitable base for the club, thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, delivered by the Football Foundation. The project also received a grant from the Premier League through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF).

The funding enabled Wythenshawe Amateurs FC, which currently plays in the Premier Division of the Manchester League, to install a state-of-the-art clubhouse on-site to cater for the club’s members, spectators and 800 players. The new facility comprises: two team changing rooms; two officials’ changing rooms; a function room; a kitchen; a first aid room and spectator toilets.

In addition, Wythenshawe Amateurs FC has remodelled the site’s existing grass pitches. This has given players access to one full-size, two 9v9 and three Mini-Soccer pitches. One of the original pitches was prone to water-logging, so the project also included drainage improvement works to create more reliable playing surfaces for the club.

The funding has also supported the club in erecting new fencing for the Park, to provide security. This encloses the site’s main pitch, clubhouse and new parking area which has also been created. The parking area includes two disabled parking spaces and has access to and from the facilities.

Previously, Wythenshawe Amateurs FC shared facilities with a cricket club and only had access to a football pitch for six months of the year. Club President John Walker, who has been associated with Wythenshawe Amateurs FC for almost 70 years, is delighted with their new home. Mr Walker joined the club as a player in 1950, aged 13, and also served as manager before being named President. He said: “I never thought we would have our own ground during my lifetime, so the opening of this great new clubhouse is fantastic.”

The new facilities will benefit existing players, whilst strong links with local schools will help the club to recruit new members. In addition, Wythenshawe Amateurs FC is also building a strong relationship with the Manchester United Foundation, with hopes that both organisations can use the facilities to work together in future.

Wythenshawe Amateurs FC were awarded a £382,317 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the project. They also received £50,000 from the Premier League, through the FSIF. Other funding has come from the Budweiser Club Futures programme, which saw the club supported in their bid for £150,000 by Manchester United FC players back in 2014.

The club worked alongside the Football Foundation and the Lancashire 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.

A 113% boost in overall football participation is expected, with the club planning to introduce 20 brand new teams. This is in addition to their 29 existing teams, taking their total to 49. One of these new sides will be a mixed disability youth team, with the club planning to develop new disability coaches through support from their Special Education Needs school links and the Lancashire FA.

Additionally, four new girls’ teams will be introduced across the Under-10, Under-14, Under-18 and open age levels. They will join Wythenshawe Amateurs FC’s two existing female sides and, along with the planned taster sessions to be run for girls through the school links, a 186% rise in girls’ football participation is predicted for the site. Three male open age teams will also be established, in addition to the female side, supporting growth in football participation for those over the age of 26 of 131%.

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.

Funded with £6.5m each year from the Premier League, the FSIF – the sister organisation of the Football Foundation – is the country’s largest provider of grants towards projects that help improve the comfort and safety of lower league football grounds in both the professional and amateur game. These improvements range from new football stands and turnstiles to floodlighting and improved provision for disabled supporters.

Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 486 grants worth £14.4m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £33.1m across the whole of Lancashire.

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.

Bryan Robson OBE, who spent almost 13 years with Manchester United FC, much of this as Captain, said: “It’s an honour to unveil Wythenshawe Amateur FC’s new ground, and I am so pleased that they invited me to do so. I know that the club is driven by the wish to keep improving for the sake of its players, and their Hollyhedge Park site is sure to support them in this. I’d like to thank the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund and the Premier League, through the FSIF, for their investment in the project.

“I’m also delighted to hear that the Manchester United Foundation is in talks with Wythenshawe Amateurs FC – it’s so important for professional clubs to be involved in their communities, which is something Manchester United FC is very good at.

“Most professional players do come up through the ranks in grassroots sport, but that is not the only reason for the continued investment into the lower levels of the game. Football is such a unifying sport, bringing people together, but it also provides opportunities that ultimately improve lives. I wish Wythenshawe Amateurs FC the very best at their new site, and hope that its players are able to take advantage of all it can offer them.”

Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, said: “This is the second time in the last six months that I have attended the opening of a new grassroots facility in my constituency, which is testament to the major role grassroots sport plays here. It is wonderful to see Wythenshawe Amateurs FC with their own ground, thanks to the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.

“Investment from the Premier League, The FA and the Government, via Sport England, is at the heart of improving our country’s grassroots football provision. This is so important because of the multitude of great things the sport offers –improving physical health being just one of many. My congratulations go to Wythenshawe Amateurs FC for making their project a success, and I’m sure their ground will be an important community venue for years to come.”

Basil Kabbani, Wythenshawe Amateurs FC Chairman, said: “We have been trying for years to secure the necessary funding to build our clubhouse and pitch. It is a dream come true for everyone connected with the club, especially our President John Walker. A lot of hard work has gone into getting us to this point and to see the building open is great.

“We’ve had fantastic support from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, Manchester City Council, local councillors and Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, and I can’t thank them enough. We’ve also had great support from the local community. We are also ambitious and want to climb the league ladder, so I am delighted that we have been accepted to next level Step 6, the North West Counties.”

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 Wythenshawe Amateurs FC has now opened their state-of-the-art home ground in Manchester, thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund. My thanks go to Bryan Robson for kindly taking the time to perform the official opening.

“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.”