Multi-Sport Hub Unveiled in Merseyside

Mayor of St. Helens, Cllr. Joe Pearson, had the honour of unveiling Merseyside’s new multi-sport hub recently (Saturday 8 July 2017) as part of the St. Helens Sports Festival. Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region; Marie Rimmer, MP for St Helens South; Chris Foy, former Premier League referee and Cllr. Barrie Grunewald, were also in attendance.

The new facility includes a state-of-the-art third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP), built thanks to a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.

Vital upgrades to the site include the brand new floodlit 3G AGP and a changing pavilion, which comprises: eight team changing rooms; two officials’ changing rooms; a clubroom and spectator toilets.

The pitch, which will be a key facility for grassroots football in the area, will support a number of local groups, including: partner club FC St. Helens Town; St. Helens Town AFC and Pilkington FC.

St. Helens Council worked alongside the Liverpool FA and the Football Foundation to compile a five-year Football Development Plan, which is a vision of how football will be played on site with an emphasis on increasing participation.

The upgrades are expected to boost football participation across all ages by 237%. The pitch has already helped create a Pilkington FC women’s team, which will be the first open age women’s side based in St. Helens for some time.

It is expected that the number of teams using the facility will reach 135 within five years of its opening. This is supported by plans for two new male youth disability teams and an open-age disability side. Additionally, the St. Helens Junior League will use the 3G AGP as its central venue and hope to establish a new Under-18 division.

The Council worked in partnership with the clubs who use the site and the Liverpool FA to secure a £492,000 grant from the Premier League & 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 258 grants worth £14.7m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £54.3m across the whole of Liverpool.

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.

Marie Rimmer, MP for St. Helens South, said: “My thanks goes to St. Helens Council for inviting me to be here to see the pitch and the new facility in action. It is an excellent addition to our area and I’m sure it will encourage many more people to get active.

“This pitch couldn’t have been built without the grant delivered by the Football Foundation, which is funded by the Premier League, The FA and the Government through Sport England. The Council has worked very hard to secure all of the funding for the facility and I’d like to congratulate them on their efforts.”

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region, said: “This pitch is an excellent grassroots football facility and is an example of what the sport needs in order to progress. It will benefit the area as both a physical and social outlet. Well done to St. Helens Council for securing money from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund in order to make this project possible.”

Councillor Sue Murphy, portfolio holder for leisure services, said: “It’s wonderful to finally see this colossal sports complex open to the public. For many years, Ruskin Drive was the envy of many a sports team visiting from outside the borough, so we’re extremely proud to have this new and improved state-of-the-art facility on our doorstep which will benefit thousands of people.”

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “I am delighted that a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund has enabled St. Helens Council to build their new all-weather pitch. This development will provide a real boost to sport in the local area and a special thanks must go to Steve Rotheram, Marie Rimmer MP, Chris Foy, Cllr. Joe Pearson and Cllr. Barrie Grunewald, for officially opening the facility.

“Since 2000, the Football Foundation has supported grassroots projects worth more than £1.4bn, investing into areas where the need is greatest and where it will have the biggest impact in terms of getting more people playing football and a wide range of other sports.

“With this funding, provided by the Premier League, The FA and the Government, through Sport England, we are helping to improve community sports facilities across the country and thereby the playing experience of those who take part. This latest project in St Helens is the latest addition to the inventory of modern community sports sites we are developing that cater for the needs of local people who want to play sport purely for the love of it and to stay healthy.”