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Essex club set sights on becoming largest in area as Mark Francois MP unveils new facility

Essex club set sights on becoming largest in area as Mark Francois MP unveils new facility

Date published: 29/06/2018
Essex club set sights on becoming largest in area as Mark Francois MP unveils new facility
Wickford Town FC Chairman Clive Lodge (centre left) and Life President John Bartlett (centre right) were joined by club representatives and Essex FA CEO Brendan Walshe (fourth from left) as Mark Francois MP (centre) officially opened the new changing pavilion.

Mark Francois, MP for Wickford and Rayleigh, officially opened a state-of-the-art new changing room facility for Wickford Town FC recently (Saturday 23 June), as they look to become one of the largest youth football clubs in Essex. Their new facility was made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.

The grant enabled Wickford Town FC to double the number of team changing rooms within their Bartlett Park facility, which will enable them to significantly boost their provision of football throughout the local community. With expansion plans being supported by the project, Wickford Town FC are on track to become one of the biggest clubs in the area.

The upgraded facility now comprises: four team changing rooms; two changing rooms for match-day officials, increased access to male and females toilets and a clubroom complete with kitchen and servery area. The servery and clubroom will help increase both the club’s income and overall sustainability.

The club hope that the new facility will help them unearth more gems from their youth sides, which have already helped to produce Brentford first-choice goalkeeper, Daniel Bentley and former Southend United manager, Steve Tilson.

The new site will also help the club, which plays in the Southend District League, to forge stronger local community links. Wickford Rotary Trust will use the site for meetings and events, with Essex Boys and Girls Club enjoying similar benefits. Wickford Town FC and its President John Bartlett, who has had numerous roles within the club since it was founded in 1969, are delighted with the new provision.

Wickford Town FC were awarded a £397,764 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the project. The club worked alongside the Football Foundation and the Essex FA to compile a five-year Football Development Plan, which is a vision of how sport will be played on site with an emphasis on increasing participation.

The new facility will support the club in hopes of almost doubling their number of youth football teams, as they aim to draw in a further 20 teams thanks to their improved provision. This would take their total of sides from 37 to 61, a move which would increase overall participation by 154%.

With a focus on retaining young players and backfilling their existing teams through all age groups, a 100% increase in football participation for those in the 14-25 age bracket is predicted. Wickford Town FC also plan to establish four new girls’ teams and a ladies side, in addition to the two ladies sides they currently run.

Founded in 2000, the Football Foundation is the largest sports charity in the UK funded by the Premier League, The FA and Government, via Sport England. It develops new and refurbished grassroots sports facilities in order to improve the quality and experience of playing sport at the grassroots level. Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded over 17,000 grants worth more than £615m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of £817m – £1.4bn of investment into the grassroots game.

Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 337 grants worth £15.9m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £29m across the whole of Essex.

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.

Mr Clive Lodge, Chairman, Wickford Town Youth Football Club said: “I would like to thank Mark Francois MP for opening our new facility. Additionally we would like to thank Brendan Walshe and Essex FA for their continual support over the last few years in making this happen. The club have received support from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund alongside additional funding providers, and years of fundraising from club members.

“Without this support and funding the project would never have been able to be achieved. The new facilities now give the club a home in the local area, which provides recreational facilities to over 500 children and young people to use a week.”

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “Grassroots sport plays an important role in communities across the UK, creating opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. That is why I am delighted that Wickford Town FC has now opened their state-of-the-art changing complex in Essex, thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.

“Continuing to improve access to high-quality facilities like this one is a key aim for the Premier League, The FA and the Government. Delivered by the Football Foundation, their funding supports projects for clubs and organisations all over the country and is helping to boost the number of people benefiting from sport through better facilities.

“Grassroots football provides so many benefits for members of the community, not least of which is the opportunity to enjoy themselves. Love for our national game, something that can be found across the country, is an integral part of what drives the Foundation and its Funding Partners to keep increasing the standards and quality of our facilities.”

ENDS

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The new facilities now give the club a home in the local area, which provides recreational facilities to over 500 children and young people to use a week.” - Mr Clive Lodge, Chairman, Wickford Town Youth Football Club

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