Swindon Town FC manager Phil Brown officially opened a new state-of-the-art third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) at New College Swindon recently (Tuesday 25 September). 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 New College Swindon to install the all-weather pitch, replacing a grass pitch that was unsuitable for football due to inadequate drainage. This made it prone to waterlogging during harsh weather conditions in the winter months.
One of the main beneficiaries of the facility will be the New College Football Academy, which was established over 15 years ago. Former Swindon Town FC defender Paul Bodin formulated the academy with Ian Howell, who now manages it. The academy currently operates three teams and has approximately 50 players, with the sides competing in the Hellenic Football League.
The 3G AGP has been installed with floodlights, enabling increased capacity and availability of the college’s facilities thanks to it being usable during the evening. Not only will players of the New College Football Academy benefit from the facility, but also local community groups and sports teams will enjoy using a modern sports facility to train and play on.
Partner clubs, Swindon Robins FC, Swindon Spitfires FC and Croft Juniors FC will all use the site for training sessions throughout the week. In addition to this, Swindon Primary Schools FA will be using the pitch weekly to work with some of the most talented young players from local primary schools.
New College Swindon were awarded a £479,461 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the project. The college worked alongside the Football Foundation and the Wiltshire 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.
Swindon Town FC will use the site as part of a pro club link with New College Swindon. The club’s Level 3 apprentices will use the facility three times per week for pre-match training, skills, sport specific and player specific development.
The number of teams using the new pitch is set to grow from 22 to 36 teams in junior and adult formats, with the number of teams in the 14 – 18 age range doubling. This will support a predicted increase of nearly 250 players over the next five years and is expected to result in a 72% increase in football participation on the site.
Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 166 grants worth £6m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £22.9m across the whole of Wiltshire FA.
Ian Howell, New College Football Academy Manager, said: “The new 3G pitch will enable the New College Football Academy to improve the training and development of our players with this state-of-the-art facility. It will also help us create more options of playing fixtures throughout the winter months. This was made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, and we can now develop our academy further and increase our programme by potentially offering additional schemes linked to the college.
“Grassroots clubs will also benefit from a fantastic facility that will help both players and coaches to improve. They will have the opportunity to train and play on better surfaces, enabling the individuals to improve and develop as players. This is brilliant for the local community as well as those who will play, train and just be involved with this venue.”
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 New College has now opened their state-of-the-art 3G pitch in Swindon, 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.”