Local residents were hop, skipping and jumping when former Olympic Gold Medallist triple jumper, Jonathan Edwards, attended the completion of a Football Foundation funded project in Greenwich yesterday. The current, athlete representative on the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympics Games board, said the facility is “absolutely essential” for the local community.
“I think sport should be right at the heart of community life - getting young people involved in sport, teaching them about the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle, and the discipline that sport teaches you, is vitally important. To have a facility like this that the local community can use I think is absolutely essential for really healthy, well functioning communities,” said Edwards.
The playing fields will also be used as a training facility for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games, and Edwards hopes this will help “inspire” the 2,000 youngsters from Long Lane Junior Football Club who use the pitches on a weekly basis.
He added: “I think one of the things sport clubs need is inspiration - and to have some of the best Under-23 teams’ in the world coming here and playing on these pitches will serve as great motivation for the young kids at the club.”
The opening was also attended by Director of Sport for Sport England and Football Foundation trustee, Phil Smith CBE. While acknowledging that the use of the facilities during Olympics is “the cherry on top of the cake”, at the forefront of his agenda was the benefit the facility will bring to the local community.
Phil Smith, said: “It’s got the potential to absolutely transform the community. The chairman was telling me earlier that before this project the site was a wasteland – a dump literally where people were fly tipping and smashing the windows of an old school building.
“The Football Foundation has absolutely transformed the site and it gives people a lot of hope. People have been talking recently about localism and the big society and I think the Football Foundation has been doing it for a long-time and I am very proud to be involved as a trustee,” he added.
Forecasts suggest that an additional 823 people will gain access to the pitches on a weekly basis, providing more opportunities for the local community to play the beautiful game.
The previous grass pitches were deemed unplayable during the winter months and failed to support club development. The newly-completed project will allow the club’s 37 teams, local schools and community groups to play on some of the best pitches in the South East. The pitch improvement works and new drainage system will address the high number of match postponements seen in previous seasons and increase footballing opportunities for the local area.
Mick Northwood, Chief Executive of Long Lane JFC, said: “This is a dream come true, our old pitches were becoming too dangerous to play on. The Football Foundation have been magnificent in their support of the club, without their grant towards the project our youngsters would never have been given the opportunity of playing their football on these wonderful new playing surfaces.”
The project was funded with the help of a £174,391 grant from the Football Foundation. Funded by the Premier League, The FA, and the Government via Sport England, the Football Foundation is the nation’s largest sports charity. Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded around 8,000 grants worth more than £420m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £520m.
An additional grant of £150,000 came from The FA, as part of their capital allocation within the Whole Sport Plan agreed with Sport England. This specific aspect of funding has been awarded to support the sustainability of community clubs and create more opportunities to participate in sport within a high quality environment.
Long Lane JFC was the beneficiary of a £897,264 grant from the Football Foundation back in 2000. The award funded the demolition of an existing dilapidated changing block and replaced it with a new state-of-the-art two-storey pavilion (incorporating 12 changing rooms) plus a gymnasium.