Our pitch improvement project unveiled

Rehman Chishti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham, officially opened The Howard School’s upgraded grass pitches recently (Friday 8 December), thanks to a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation. The MP was joined by Howard School student Louis Binks, who plays for Tottenham Hotspur FC’s Under-18 team and has represented England, and Chris Solly who currently plays for Charlton Athletic in League One.

The grant enabled the school to improve its existing grass pitches, to ensure that they are taking full advantage of the area available. The pitch upgrade project included removing one Redgra area and replacing it with natural turf, to maximise the grass area, as well as remodelling the existing pitches. As a result, pupils and community groups now have access to one youth 11v11 pitch; two 9v9 pitches; one 7v7 pitch; one 5v5 pitch and training grids. This will benefit not only the school, but also Medway United FC and Kent League – both of which will take advantage of the improved facilities for fixtures.

The school worked alongside the Kent FA 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. Thanks to the upgrade project, it is expected that the number of teams using the facilities will rise from nine to 15. This will include two new Under-15 teams, one Under-16 side and one Under-18 side. As a result, a 184% increase in football participation in those between the ages of 14 and 25 is predicted.

The Howard School worked in partnership with the Kent FA to secure a £29,508 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund. 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 around 15,000 grants worth more than £580m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £800m – £1.4bn of investment into the grassroots game.

Since 2000 the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 375 grants worth £13.1m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £24.5m across the whole of Kent. 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 P Morris, CEO of the Howard Academy Trust, said: “A big thank you to Rehman Chishti MP and Louis Binks for opening the improved pitches. As a student of the Howard School, along with playing for England and Tottenham Hotspur FC, it was only fitting for Louis to help open this great new facility. I would also like to thank the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund. This new funded facility has given not only the students of The Howard School but the local community the opportunity to continue to enjoy grassroots football.”  

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund provides the investment necessary to improve grassroots football facilities. So, I am delighted to see The Howard School join thousands of local clubs and organisations who have reaped its benefit, in this case through the opening of their improved pitches. My thanks go to Rehman Chishti MP and Louis Binks for officially unveiling them. 

“Having delivered over £1.4bn of grassroots sports infrastructure projects, the Football Foundation has developed a network of accessible, first-class facilities in areas they will have the greatest impact – thanks to money from the Premier League, The FA and the Government via Sport England. 

“These facilities are more than places to play football at, these facilities are hubs of physical activity, the bedrock of local communities and ‘homes from home’ for so many who also use them as social outlets to learn new skills, gain work experience and other qualifications.”

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Our pitch improvement project unveiled