Scunthorpe United FC manager Graham Alexander, first-team coach Nick Daws, MP Andrew Percy, and Baroness Liz Redfern, officially opened Isle Education Trust’s new football hub recently at South Axholme Academy.
The project was made possible thanks to grants from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation, and North Lincolnshire Council.
The new state-of-the-art football hub boasts a third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) and changing room pavilion, with the overall number of female players projected to rise from 44 to 451. On top of its use by the academy’s 930 students, the new facility will allow local grassroots club Epworth Town Colts AFC – who currently play across five different venues – to relocate to one ‘home’ site.
The new floodlit 3G pitch will be used all-year-round alongside the new changing room pavilion, which comprises: two team changing rooms; two officials’ changing rooms; a clubroom; kitchen facilities and spectator toilets. The 3G pitch will also be available for community use, managed by Epworth Leisure Centre.
Through this project, Isle Education Trust and Epworth Town Colts AFC worked alongside the Football Foundation and Lincolnshire FA to compile a five-year Football Development Plan (FDP), which is a vision of how sport will be played on-site. As part of this FDP, two new teams will be created, while The FA will use the facility to deliver coach education courses, including Youth Modules One and Two.
The project was made possible thanks to a £450,000 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation, and a significant grant of over £250,000 by North Lincolnshire Council. In addition, Epworth Town Colts AFC and Isle Education Trust contributed over £70,000 and Epworth Town Council £10,000.
The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund provides grants towards developing new or refurbished grassroots football facilities. It is funded by the Premier League, The FA, and the Government, via Sport England. It 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 224 grants worth nearly £13m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £40m across the whole of Lincolnshire.
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.
Andrew Percy, MP for Brigg and Goole, said: “The new all-weather pitch and changing room pavilion have impressed me enormously, they’ll make this site at South Axholme Academy a hub for local sport. These grassroots facilities are so important in getting people fit and healthy, and I’m delighted to see so many youngsters already playing – and learning – in a safe, accessible environment.
“I’d like to thank the Academy for inviting me to open such an exciting local sports development, and importantly, the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund and North Lincolnshire Council, for providing such generous investment behind the project.”
Iron manager Graham Alexander, only the second player to make over 1,000 professional appearances, said: “These facilities at South Axholme Academy really are fantastic, they will make such a big impact on local football, with so many people now able to get involved. You can see the quality of the new all-weather pitch which will, importantly, support the development of grassroots players’ technical abilities, but also give everyone the chance to enjoy the sport for the fun of playing it.
“Thanks must go to all those involved in the project – the school for inviting myself and Nick here today, North Lincolnshire Council, and the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, whose grant has enabled this project to become a reality. I’m excited to see the next crop of local footballers come through!”
Baroness Liz Redfern, North Lincolnshire Council, said: “This shows great partnership working. This is a fantastic sports facility for local people to use, and what’s great about it is that it will enable girls and boys alike to have the opportunity to play football, which is wonderful.
“I’m delighted that the Council was able to contribute significantly to the project. The facility is very much needed and will open up opportunities to get involved in sport and reap the many benefits. It will also enable the local football club to train from one location – which is great.”
Mark Degnan, Chairman of Epworth Town Colts AFC, said: “We are delighted to finally open the new 3G artificial grass pitch and pavilion at South Axholme Academy. Not only will this provide enhanced facilities for the local community within the Isle of Axholme and daily school use, it will also provide one of North Lincolnshire’s largest local football teams a base from which to grow and expand its offer of football for all.
“I would like to thank Baroness Redfern for her support of the project and North Lincolnshire council, Isle Education Trust, Epworth Town Council and the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund for their financial contributions to allow this dream to become a reality.”
Chair of Isle Education Trust Paul Barratt, added: “The new facilities will enhance both the educational experiences and wider community experiences for many years to come.”
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 Isle Education Trust and Epworth Town Colts AFC to build a new football hub, complete with a new 3G pitch and changing room pavilion. This development will provide a real boost to sport in the local area and a special thanks must go to Graham Alexander, Nick Daws, Andrew Percy MP and Baroness Redfern for opening the new facility.
“Since 2000, the Football Foundation has supported grassroots projects worth more than £1.4bn, investing into areas where the need is greatest and where it will have the biggest impact in terms of getting more people playing football and a wide range of other sports.
“With this 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 Epworth 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.”