West Ham United midfielder Jack Collison returned to his childhood club to kick off the start of work on their new ground.
The Welsh international, who began his footballing career at Shefford Saints Football Club, was the first person to use the digger on the £1.3m development, which secured funding from the Football Foundation and the Football Stadia Improvement Fund.
The new ground will include: a full size pitch, four mini soccer pitches, a training area, four dual-gender changing rooms, two officials changing rooms and a clubhouse bar.
Paul Thorogood, CEO of the Football Foundation, praised the support of the Bedfordshire County FA, who worked in partnership with the club to secure a £165,146 grant from the country’s largest sport charity.
Thorogood said: “I want to congratulate Shefford Saints and the Bedfordshire FA for working tirelessly to secure this funding and I look forward to seeing the end result in the near future. My thanks also go to Jack Collison for taking the time out of his busy schedule to support the grassroots game.
“The Football Foundation is dedicated, with funding provided from the Premier League, The FA and the Government, to raising the standard of grassroots community sports facilities and to getting more people actively playing national sport.”
Shefford football teams have been without their own pitches since Shefford Town FC folded in 1994. Since then the town’s junior football club, Shefford Saints, has grown to become one of the most respected junior clubs in the county, with in excess of 325 playing members from Shefford and the surrounding villages.
Graham Earl, Shefford Saints FC Chairman, said: “This is an incredibly exciting new phase in the club’s evolution. We are delighted the ground works are now starting and that the process of creating a major new outstanding home ground and training facility should be complete by the start of 2013.
“Pitch levelling, drainage and seeding works will follow the current site entrance works as will the new clubhouse, which includes a function room and four changing rooms. The pitches will take time to fully establish but will be available for some junior matches at the end of next season.”
The club secured an additional £50,000 from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, which is funded with £6m from the Premier League each year.
The ceremony was also attended by local councillors and local enabling developer Warden Developments.
Notes to Editors
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Funded by the Premier League, The FA and the Government (via Sport England), the Football Foundation is the country’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 £540m.
Football Stadia Improvement Fund
Funded with £6m each year from the Premier League, the FSIF is the country’s largest provider of grants towards projects that help improve the comfort and safety of lower league football grounds in both the professional and amateur game. These improvements range from new football stands and turnstiles to floodlighting and improved provision for disabled supporters.
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