Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith was among a trio of famous names from the football world on-hand to officially open a third generation artificial grass pitch at Roundwood Park School recently
He was joined by England international Natasha Dowie and three-time Team GB Paralympic five-a-side footballer David Clarke.
The new facility was made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation. With no other full-size 3G artificial grass pitches within a five mile radius, the grant enabled Roundwood Park School to install a new state-of-the-art artificial surface, replacing a grass pitch that was unsuitable for football due to inadequate drainage and the inability to withstand the harsh weather conditions.
The new pitch has been installed with floodlights, enabling increased capacity and availability of the school’s facilities thanks to it being usable during the evening. Not only will pupils at the school benefit from the facility, but also players from partner club, Harpenden Colts FC, who operate 60 teams and use eight different venues for training.
Watford FC Community Sports & Education Trust also plan to use the site to deliver weekly sessions targeting female and disabled football in addition to regular summer holiday coaching and coach education workshops.
We worked with Roundwood Park School and the Football Foundation 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, enabling them to be awarded a £500,000 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the project.
It is expected that the new pitch will contribute towards over 1,250 people participating in sporting activity at the site, which represents a growth of 172%. It is also predicted that the biggest increase in new users will come from the Under-14 age category, where over 730 new users are anticipated across the five years.
Significant growth in the number of females using the site to play football is also expected, with nearly 160 new players. This has been identified as a key objective to deliver and is expected to create a 240% increase in participation within that demographic.
Karl Lingham, Hertfordshire FA Joint Acting CEO and County Development Manager said: “We recognise the importance of high quality facilities for football and together with our partners work hard to see these developed across the county. Putting a robust plan in place to ensure any new facility offers increased participation is crucial to both securing the necessary funding and delivering for the local community in the long term”.
“This site will get many more people in the area involved in football on a regular basis with all of the associated benefits in terms of mental and physical health and wellbeing that come from playing the game”.
Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 208 grants worth £10.8m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £19.5m across the whole of Hertfordshire.
Tony Smith, Roundwood Park School Business Manager, said: “To see the transformation of an old and tired muddy field into a world class facility which we now have the privilege to use is a great achievement not only for the school, but for all of those who have been involved in the process.”
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 Roundwood Park School has now opened their state-of-the-art all weather pitch in Harpenden, thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund."
“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.”
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