Chester MP Chris Matheson has officially opened Blacon High School’s new all-weather pitch.
The project was made possible by a grant from the Premier League and The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.
The grant has enabled Blacon High School to replace their sand-based artificial grass pitch, which was installed more than 10 years ago and was in a poor state of repair.
The school, which opened in a newly built £12m building in September 2016, now boasts a state-of-the-art third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch in its place.
This will be used by the school’s teams, as well as partner clubs Blacon Youth FC and Saughall Colts FC; Upton JFC; Chester Girls FC and the Chester and District Football League.
Chester FC are also involved at the site, with their community trust planning to deliver walking football and girls development sessions at the site.
Blacon High School will use its new facility to develop a student football workforce, aiming to encourage pupils to get involved in the other side of football through coaching and referee training, as well as providing leadership opportunities.
The school worked alongside the Cheshire 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.
Across the school and partner clubs, it is expected that 16 new teams will be introduced. This takes the combined total from 31 to 47, supporting an increase of 282% in football participation for those aged 14-25 at the site.
Of the 16 new teams, it is expected that three will be girls’ sides at under-10, under-12 and under-14 level. This, along with other girls’ development being undertaken at the pitch, will result in a 421% rise in female participation across all sports onsite.
The club worked in partnership with the Cheshire FA to secure a £476,564 grant from the Premier League and The FA Facilities Fund.
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.
Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 344 grants worth £12.3m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £23m across the whole of Cheshire.
By providing more high-quality facilities, coupled with coaching at the appropriate age group, the Premier League and 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.
Mr Matheson MP: “I am very pleased that Blacon High School now has this excellent all-weather pitch, and I am honoured to have been asked to unveil it. My congratulations to the school on their hard work in bringing this to fruition. Grassroots sport is really important in this area, and it’s vital that we keep improving the provision at every opportunity.
“Thanks to funding from the Premier League, The FA and the Government, through Sport England, the Football Foundation delivers facilities like this across England. This project wouldn’t have been possible without their support, and I’d like to thank them for their continued efforts in our area.”
Headteacher at Blacon High School Sue Yates said: “I would like to thank our MP, Chris Matheson, for opening this fantastic provision and celebrating the opening with us.
“Obviously, we are very thankful for the financial support from the Premier League and The FA Facilities Fund for their financial support. This provision will enhance the school even further and benefit our young people. It will also develop the already very healthy local football at every level. The community of Blacon will be enriched by this new 3G AGP.”
Chief executive of the Football Foundation, Paul Thorogood, said: “The Premier League and The FA Facilities Fund provides the investment necessary to improve grassroots football facilities. So, I am delighted to see Blacon High School join thousands of local clubs and organisations who have reaped its benefit, in this case through the opening of a 3G AGP. My thanks go to Chris Matheson MP for officially unveiling the facility.
“Having delivered over £1.4bn of grassroots sports infrastructure projects, the Football Foundation has developed a network of accessible, first-class facilities in areas they will have the greatest impact – thanks to money from the Premier League, The FA and the Government via Sport England.
“These facilities are more than places to play football at, these facilities are hubs of physical activity, the bedrock of local communities and ‘homes from home’ for so many who also use them as social outlets to learn new skills, gain work experience and other qualifications.”