A state-of-the-art third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) was officially opened at Great Sankey Neighbourhood Hub recently (Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 July) with a celebratory football tournament. The new facility was made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.
The grant enabled LiveWire Warrington which manages Great Sankey Neighbourhood Hub to install the all-weather pitch as part of a shared site with Great Sankey High School. Students from the school and three partner football clubs, Whittle Hall JFC, Crosfields JFC and Matthiola JFC, are all set to benefit from the new facility.
The 3G AGP is part of Warrington Borough Council and LiveWire’s multi-million pound transformation of the Great Sankey Leisure Centre into a new Neighbourhood Hub which opened in February 2018 with a state-of-the-art fitness suite, studios and a library.
LiveWire Warrington was awarded a £302,184 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the installation. The organisation worked alongside the Football Foundation and Liverpool County 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.
Thanks to the improved surface, provided by the brand new 3G AGP, the three partner football clubs have been able to provide increased playing opportunities, including the celebratory tournament organised by Whittle Hall Junior Football Club in partnership with LiveWire Warrington. The tournament not only celebrated the official opening of the new facility, but also marked the club’s 20th anniversary since it was formed in 1998. Over 700 keen footballers aged between 5 and 14, representing junior football clubs from Warrington Junior Football League took, part in the tournament, which was a huge success.
One of the key objectives for the facility was to increase football participation. With only one other full-size AGP within a five mile radius of the Great Sankey site, the potential for growth in users at the all-weather pitch was evident. During the period between Autumn 2017 and Spring 2018, LiveWire Warrington reported a 31% weekly increase on participants using the site.
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 18,000 grants worth more than £638m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of £841m – totalling almost £1.5bn of investment into the grassroots game.
Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 257 grants worth £14.6m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £54.1m 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.
LiveWire Warrington’s Managing Director, Emma Hutchinson, said: “We are very grateful for the investment from Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, and the support and guidance we have received from the Football Foundation.
“The grant has enabled us to replace the old sand-based pitch that was no longer fit for purpose with this stunning new pitch that will benefit not only local football clubs and students at Great Sankey High School, but the West Warrington community as a whole.
“Without the input from the Football Foundation we could not have realised this fantastic opportunity.”
Dave Smith, Chairman of Whittle Junior Football Club, said: “I’d like to thank LiveWire on the official opening of their 3G pitch, and for supporting Whittle Hall Junior Football Club with our two-day football tournament for hundreds of local children, and also the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund for their support of the project.
“It was fantastic to see so many local football clubs taking part in the tournament at the opening of this brilliant new facility and helping us to celebrate our club’s 20th anniversary.
“The 3G pitch has already made a massive difference to Whittle Hall JFC. We can continue to play football when the natural grass pitches are unplayable, allowing children to participate and develop a love of playing football all year round. Our club continues to grow and go from strength to strength and becoming a Partner Club has made this further possible.”
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 LiveWire Warrington has now opened their new all-weather pitch, thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.
“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.”