Former Watford FC striker, Gifton Noel-Williams, was at Westfield Academy in Watford recently (Friday 26 February 2016), to officially open the schools’ new £373,088 third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP). The project was made possible thanks to a £223,088 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation, the country’s largest sports charity.
The grant has enabled the school to refurbish an old floodlit sand-dressed pitch to create a new 97m x 61m 3G AGP by replacing the surface, together with floodlights and fencing. Richard Harrington, MP for Watford, was also in attendance at the opening of the new pitch, as well as George Wells, Hertfordshire FA’s Chief Executive.
Watford FC’s Community Sports and Education Trust, who have been working with the school for a number of years, will continue to deliver community-based football and education initiatives at the site. This includes holiday courses and tournaments, as well as diversionary activities and coach education workshops for parents and children.
The Football Foundation worked alongside Hertfordshire FA and Westfield Academy to produce a five-year Football Development Plan (FDP), which is a vision for how football will be delivered at the site with emphasis on increasing participation. This plan predicts a growth of partner teams for partner clubs including youth, female only and adult sides.
It is hoped that the site will see the introduction of a provision for disability football, as well as a 40% increase in football participation. It is also predicted that the pitch will significantly increase female participation in the local area.
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 £546m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £773m – over £1.3bn of investment into the grassroots game.
The Fusion Lifestyle and Westfield Academy partnership also contributed financially to the new facility.
Since 2000 the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 213 grants worth £13.3m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £24.8m across the whole of Hertfordshire.
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.
Gifton Noel-Williams, Head Coach of the Watford Football Academy at Westfield Academy, said: “The new pitch at Westfield Academy is a fantastic facility which will be used by pupils, partner clubs and Watford FC’s Community Sports and Education Trust to increase participation levels, which will get the local community active. It was a pleasure to attend the official opening and I was pleased to see so many young people enjoying football on the impressive new facility.
“I have been working with pupils at the school and it is clear to see the impact the new 3G has already had on their enjoyment and enthusiasm for the game. The investment by the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, through the Football Foundation, is an example of their commitment to improving grassroots facilities across the country.”
Rob Smith, Community Director, Watford Football Club, said: “It is fantastic to see the new pitch open at Westfield Academy. The investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund will strengthen the connection between the club and the local community, through the Watford FC’s Community Sports and Education Trust outreach work on site.
“By forming this link, the Football Foundation are getting more young people involved in sport, creating some top-quality home-grown talent and improving the overall experience for players of the national game.”
Richard Harrington, MP for Watford, said: “I was delighted to attend the official opening of Westfield Academy’s new 3G facility. The school have worked hard with the Football Foundation, Hertfordshire FA and Watford FC’s Community Sports and Education Trust to make this impressive pitch a reality.
“This facility will encourage many young people in Watford to start playing football, improving health levels and get people active thanks to funding from the Government’s partnership with the Premier League, The FA and the Football Foundation.”
George Wells, Acting Chief Executive, Hertfordshire County FA, said: “The new 3G AGP at Westfield Academy is a prime example of the Football Foundation’s commitment to improving grassroots facilities for communities across the country. The Hertfordshire FA identified the project as a strategic priority so it is great to see the pitch in action. The school and local clubs can benefit from a state-of-the-art football hub that will no doubt inspire many people in Watford to participate in sport.”
Sarah Lewis, Westfield Academy Football Development Officer, said: “We are thrilled to have the pitch officially open. We are delighted to have so many young children playing today and representing their schools. Thank you to Gifton Noel-Williams and MP Richard Harrington for opening the facility.
“The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund has enabled us to improve grassroots football and provide better facilities for the community. We already have several new users onsite, including strengthening our partnership with Watford FC’s CSE Trust by offering Walking Football and further community sessions including a local women’s and girls’ only training session.”
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 Westfield Academy to upgrade their 3G AGP. This development will provide a real boost to sport in the local area. I would like to thank Gifton Noel-Williams for opening the facility, and look forward to seeing the school go from strength to strength as a result of this funding.
“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, thanks to funding from the Premier League, The FA and the Government through Sport England.”
For more information contact:
- Sarah Lewis, Football Development Officer, Westfield Academy on 07740 740 506 or SLE@westfield.herts.sch.uk
- Alice Sherritt on 0345 345 4555 Ext: 4292 or firstname.lastname@example.org