Former Aston Villa FC and Celtic FC midfielder, Stiliyan Petrov, was in Solihull recently (Saturday 11 June) to officially open Balsall & Berkswell FC’s new £573,394 changing rooms and natural grass pitches with Caroline Spelman, MP for Meriden. The project was made possible thanks to a £440,759 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.
Stiliyan Petrov and Caroline Spelman MP were taken on a tour of the new facilities by club chairman, Steve Tidy, before cutting the ribbon to mark the opening. The development includes a new changing room pavilion comprising: two changing rooms; two officials’ changing rooms; function room, spectator toilet facilities, kitchen and storage space. There has also been drainage to one full-size pitch, two junior-size pitches and three Mini-Soccer pitches.
The Football Foundation worked in partnership with Birmingham FA and Balsall & Berkswell FC to put together a five-year Football Development Plan, which is a vision for how football will be played on site with an emphasis on increasing participation.
The club, a Charter Standard Community Club, currently plays host to 14 teams, with this number set to increase to 22 by the end of the Plan. The works have also enabled the club to establish a Saturday morning club for five to seven year-olds, filtering into their Mini-Soccer teams. Several primary schools from the local area will also use the new facility for cup competition matches.
The club will also be able to facilitate the senior men’s team who compete in the Coventry Alliance League and currently play home games at Warwick University. Female participation will also increase through a link with the Heart of England School, which offers girls in the school teams the opportunity to play at the new site.
Balsall & Berkswell annually support Mencap Football Day and the new site will allow them to host events for this, offering opportunities for people from the local community with disabilities to access football on a more regular basis.
The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund is funded by the Premier League, The FA, and the Government, via Sport England. It is delivered by the Football Foundation, the country’s largest sports charity. Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded around 14,000 grants worth more than £560m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £787m – over £1.3bn of investment into the grassroots game.
Since 2000 the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 331 grants worth £23.5m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £58.6m across the whole of the Birmingham FA region.
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.
Steve Tidy, Chairman, Balsall & Berkswell FC, said: “It was fantastic to have Stiliyan and Caroline to open our facility, which is so important to the club and the local community. The level of financial support and expertise provided by the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund has been crucial to enable us to develop our club in a structured, sustainable way. We now have an infrastructure in place that allows us to grow and increase the number of children and young adults that can enjoy playing football within their own community.”
Stiliyan Petrov said: “I was absolutely delighted to attend the opening of Balsall & Berkswell FC’s new changing rooms and improved real grass pitches with Caroline. The grassroots game is where it began for me and it is where all these young footballers here today started out too – that is why having quality facilities is so important.
“I’ve been lucky enough to train and play at on some of the best pitches in the world but I also know what it’s like to play on quagmire pitches or worse still, not play at all because the surface is waterlogged and the game has been cancelled. This is something that simply won’t happen now, thanks to this new facility.
“The club’s new changing pavilion and pitches are going to be a hub of community sports activity. This is a facility for everyone, which means that local people can play football and enjoy the benefits of getting out for a run around with their mates.
“I would like to thank everyone involved with the project for their hard work, and the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, for their investment in making this development a reality. I wish the club all the best for the future.”
Caroline Spelman, MP for Meriden, said: “I was delighted to attend the opening of Balsall & Berkswell FC’s new facilities alongside Stiliyan. It is clear how much this development means to the club, who now have a safe and comfortable changing pavilion and improved real grass pitches.
“It is vital that young people have the chance to play sport as part of a healthy and active lifestyle. I am in no doubt that this facility will inspire many individuals in Balsall Common, Berkswell and Meriden to start playing football.”
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “I am delighted that a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund has Balsall & Berkswell FC to upgrade their pavilion and grass pitches. This development will provide a real boost to sport in the local area.
“Since 2000, the Football Foundation has supported grassroots projects worth more than £1.3bn, 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 Balsall Common 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 if it and to stay healthy.”
For more information contact:
- Steve Tidy on 07854 787 835 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Alice Sherritt on 0345 345 4555 Ext: 4292 or email@example.com