Watford stars Troy Deeney, Heurelho Gomes and Jerome Sinclair joined Graham Taylor OBE, Hornets legend and Football Foundation Ambassador, to officially unveil Watford FC Community Sports and Education Trust’s (CSET) new third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) and changing room pavilion recently (Thursday 3 November 2016). Mayor of Watford, Baroness Dorothy Thornhill MBE, also joined proceedings.
The project was made possible thanks a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.
The new community football hub is set to boost sports participation by 49% with the new 3G pitch to be used by a range of local grassroots clubs, including: Garston Ladies FC, Everett Rovers FC and Garston Boys FC. The Meriden Community Centre will offer everything from 5-a-side to a Veterans League, while also equipped for table tennis, yoga, martial arts and dance. The new state-of-the-art facility comprises team changing rooms, a sports hall, fitness suite and café.
As part of the of the project, Watford FC CSET worked in partnership with the Football Foundation and Hertfordshire FA to develop a five-year Football Development Plan (FDP) – a long-term vision for how sport will be played at the new facility. As part of the FDP, the Trust’s Disability Officer will establish monthly coaching sessions alongside a brand new disability side that can train and play matches at the site.
The project was made possible thanks to a £250,916 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which provides grants towards developing new or refurbished grassroots football facilities. It 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 15,000 grants worth nearly £580m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of just under £800m – over £1.4bn of investment into the grassroots game.
Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 223grants worth £14m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £26m across the whole of Hertfordshire. The project received further funding from Sport England, The FA, Watford Borough Council, Watford Community Housing Trust, Watford FC and its Community Sports and Education Trust.
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.
The new facility was opened by former Watford FC Manager Graham Taylor OBE, an Ambassador for the Football Foundation and now Honorary Life President of the club. Even back as far as Graham’s first stint as Manager, the club had a strong community focus, with his players making many visits to support organisations in its community. Graham is delighted that this new facility will enable that tradition to continue and expand further through the first-class community outreach work delivered by the club’s Trust.
Speaking about the new facility, Graham Taylor said: “I am personally delighted to open Watford FC Community Sports and Education Trust’s new fantastic 3G pitch at the Meriden Community Centre alongside Troy, Heurelho and Jerome.
“My role as Football Foundation Ambassador allows me to see the massive difference that these types of grassroots facilities make. They enable more and more people of all ages and abilities to enjoy playing football and many other sports purely for the love of it.
“Having enjoyed a great many years, both in the dugout and as Chairman, at Vicarage Road, the club holds a very special place in my heart. From that time I also know that Watford has long been a club that is genuinely committed to its local community.
“I want to congratulate the Watford FC Community Sports and Education Trustfor working with the Football Foundation to secure a grant from Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund that has helped to develop this excellent facility. It will serve as an important venue for them to deliver life-changing community projects that improve the health, education and quality of life of local people. The site will also be an important hub for grassroots football clubs and many other sports and groups in the area. Fantastically well done to all concerned!”
Rob Smith, Director, Watford FC Community Sports and Education Trust, said: “Today has been a great celebration of everything that has been achieved in regenerating this building, this is now a Centre we can truly be proud of. I would say congratulations and thank you to everyone that has helped us along the way. But now of course the work doesn’t stop there, we will continue to work tirelessly in making sure we use this facility to directly engage with the community.”
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 Watford Community Sports and Education Trust to build a new 3G pitch and changing room pavilion. This development will provide a real boost to sport in the local area and a special thanks must go to our Ambassador Graham along with the Watford FC first-team stars, Troy Deeney, Heurelho Gomes and Jerome Sinclair, for helping open the Meriden Community Centre.
“Since 2000, the Football Foundation has supported grassroots projects worth more than £1.4bn, 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 Watford 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 of it and to stay healthy.”
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