Royals Co-Chairman opens AcademySport Leisure Centre’s new 3G artificial grass pitchRoyals Co-Chairman, Sir John Madejski OBE, officially opened ‘AcademySport’ Leisure Centre’s new third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch on Thursday afternoon. The facility was developed in partnership with Reading Borough Council and the John Madejski Academy, and received a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.
Reading FC Women manager Kelly Chambers, left back Harriet Scott, Community Trust manager Dave Evans and former Royal Noel Hunt were all in attendance to hand their support to the opening of the impressive new facility.
The new 3G pitch will be used by the John Madejski Academy to deliver their elite football programme, as well as local grassroots clubs: South Reading FC; Eldon Celtic FC; The Wright Choice Community Sports Association and The Berkshire County Girls League.
Through this project, youth football is expected to rise by 127% in Under-14 participation, with a further 22 partner teams to be established. These outcomes are projected as part of the five-year Football Development Plan – a long-term vision for how sport will be played at the new facility – developed by AcademySport, Reading Borough Council and the John Madejski Academy, alongside the Football Foundation and Berks & Bucks FA.
The Royals are also heavily involved on-site with their Womens’ Regional Talent Camp using the facility to train all-year-round. The Reading FC Community Trust will deliver programmes on the 3G pitch including Premier League Kicks, that uses sport as a tool to promote social inclusion and community engagement. The Trust will also deliver programmes focusing on special educational needs and disability, with the facility being a key venue for deaf provision.
The project was made possible thanks to a £384,218 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which provides grants towards new or refurbished grassroots sports facilities. It is funded by the Premier League, The FA, and the Government, via Sport England and 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 251 grants worth over £10m towards grassroots sports projects worth nearly £70m across the whole of Berks & Bucks. The project also received £75,000 between Reading FC, Reading Borough Council and the John Madejski Academy.
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.
Cllr Paul Gittings, Lead Member for Culture, Sport and Consumer Services, Reading Borough Council, said: “I’m delighted to celebrate the opening of the new pitch, which clearly shows the benefits of working with our partners at AcademySport and the John Madejski Academy.
“The new sports pitch will provide improved grassroots sport opportunities for local clubs and people to use these facilities. There are thriving local clubs that will be able to develop further and we anticipate that this local use will continue to grow. The value of the facilities the Council and its partners have provided over the years is clearly recognised by the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.”
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 AcademySport to build a new 3G football pitch. This development will provide a real boost to sport in the local area and a special thanks must go to Sir John Madejski for officially opening the new facility.
“With the 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 Reading 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.”