Next generation of football and rugby stars benefit from Football Foundation funding in Wigan

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A multi-sport hub at Vicarage Lane is supporting the local community in Shevington, Wigan, to play sport and get active thanks to investment from the Premier League, The FA and Government’s Football Foundation. 

Vicarage Lane, home to Shevington Football Club (FC) and Shevington Sharks Amateur Rugby Football League Club (ARFLC) boasts grass football and rugby pitches as well as a changing pavilion, which is host to community activities, such as karate, fitness classes and mental wellbeing support sessions. 

These facilities have been made possible thanks to £450,000 grant from the Football Foundation for construction of the pavilion as well as grass pitch maintenance equipment. A further £300,000 in contributions were made by the Rugby Football League, Wigan Council, IKO plc, private investment and the Clubs themselves – Shevington Sharks ARLFC and Shevington FC. 

Football Foundation funded pavilion at Vicarage Lane - home to Shevington FC and Shevington Sharks ARLFC
Football Foundation funded pavilion at Vicarage Lane - home to Shevington FC and Shevington Sharks ARLFC

Football Foundation-funded pavilion at Vicarage Lane - home to Shevington FC & Shevington Sharks ARLFC

This project forms part of the Football Foundation’s multi-sport commitment, which will see the charity direct 40% of its investment into multi-sport sites that support both football and an additional sport, such as rugby, cricket, netball, and basketball, by 2025.  

Ahead of the Rugby League World Cup, representatives of the Football Foundation visited Vicarage Lane to hear the stories of the people on the ground reaping the rewards of this investment. 

Stephen Bates, Club Secretary of Shevington Sharks ARFLC, said: 

“Shevington has never had a facility like this. Five years ago, this was a farmers’ field. Now, we have three grass pitches that support over 40 teams and there are around 600 kids playing and enjoying sport. 

“These facilities wouldn’t have been possible without the funding of the Premier League, The FA and Government’s Football Foundation.” 

Shevington FC currently has a dedicated girls’ team which they are hoping to expand with another one later this year. The Club’s Under-18s Girls Football Coach, Michael Fitzpatrick, said: 

“Thanks to the pavilion, which includes male and female changing facilities, girls are feeling more comfortable getting involved in football. 

“In the Wigan Borough especially, we have a lot of games called off due to weather. But with the money that’s been spent on these pitches, the surface is now probably one of the best in the Borough meaning we get to play a lot longer through the winter and more teams can make the most of the pitches.” 

On the impact of the Football Foundation’s investment in grounds maintenance equipment on the quality of the site’s natural grass pitches, Lee Jewitt, former Rugby Super League player, said: 

“Having quality grass pitches makes a big difference. It means you can get more teams down here training on the same night and means you’re not fighting against the long grass so you can put your skills into play. Rolling the clock back, I wish I had what’s here now.” 

Football and Rugby League clubs at sites like Vicarage Lane are also now able to access PitchPower – the Football Foundation’s revolutionary grass pitch maintenance web app. PitchPower allows clubs and organisations to carry out their grass pitch inspections and receive bespoke advice from experts at the Grounds Management to improve the quality of their grass pitches. 

From Spring 2023, clubs and organisations using PitchPower to submit their inspections will have the opportunity to apply for £15 million of Sport England National Lottery funding to support making the improvements identified through the app. 

Robert Sullivan, CEO of the Football Foundation, said: 

“The Football Foundation is working closely with our partners – the Premier League, The FA and Government through Sport England – to support facilities offering a range of sports like Vicarage Lane across the country to ensure everyone has access to great community places to play. 

“The state-of-the-art facilities here at Vicarage Lane are a shining example of the impact grassroots facilities have on local communities through offering more opportunities for people to play their favourite sports and get active.”