MK Dons Chairman Pete Winkelman and Manager Karl Robinson joined Iain Stewart, MP for Milton Keynes South and Cllr Keith Mclean, Mayor of Milton Keynes, at Sir Herbert Leon Academy recently (Friday 18 March 2016), to officially open their new £526,540 third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP).
The project was made possible thanks to a £369,340 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation, providing grants towards developing new or refurbished grassroots football facilities, with the grant enabling the school to refurbish and extend an old sand-dressed pitch to create a new 106m x 70m, floodlit, 3G AGP.
MK Dons Sport and Education Trust (MK Dons SET) will use the new pitch, as well as a number of local grassroots clubs including Milton Keynes City FC, MK Wanderers FC, and the Berks & Bucks FA. MK Dons SET will use the site for a number of community outreach programmes, including holiday camps, and aim to deliver a new Community Development Centre for underrepresented groups on the surface.
The Football Foundation worked alongside the Berks & Bucks FA and Sir Herbert Leon Academy to produce a five-year Football Development Plan (FDP), which is a vision for how football will be delivered at the site with emphasis on increasing participation.
This plan forecasts a 64% increase in female participation, through the development of new female teams. The facility will also be the home site for Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire disability league games, which supports the MK Dons’ own disability provision. There is also predicted growth of 16 teams from MK City FC and & MK Wanderers FC.
The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund 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 14,000 grants worth more than £546m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £773m – over £1.3bn of investment into the grassroots game.
Since 2000 the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 244 grants worth £9.5m towards grassroots sports projects across the whole of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.
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.
Iain Stewart, MP for Milton Keynes South, said: “The new pitch at Sir Herbert Leon Academy will have a significant impact on pupils’ participation levels, encouraging many young people to take part in sport. Home-grown talent develop skills on community pitches like this, making these facilities vital to our national game.
“It is fantastic that the school can use and benefit from the new pitch, thanks to the commitment and funding from the Government’s partnership with the Premier League and The FA, through the Football Foundation. I wish the school all the best for the future.”
MK Dons Chairman, Pete Winkelman, said: “I was really pleased to attend the official opening of Sir Herbert Leon Academy’s new 3G pitch. The facility will enable the MK Dons SET to deliver vital community outreach work, linking the grassroots game to a professional club.
“The link between pro-clubs and their communities is something the Football Foundation are improving thanks to their commitment to developing grassroots football facilities across the country. This new pitch may also inspire young people at the school and from partner clubs, MK City FC and MK Wanderers FC, to pursue a career in football, creating quality home-grown talent in the process.”
Dr Jo Trevenna, Head of School at Sir Herbert Leon Academy, said: “This new 3G pitch will provide our students and the local community with access to the very best facilities. The financial support gained from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund means that we are well placed to promote participation, raise expectations and improve grassroots sport.
“We would like to thank local MP, Iain Stewart, MK Dons Chairman, Pete Winkelman, and MK Dons Manager, Karl Robinson, for officially opening the facility. The Academy has a close relationship with MK Dons and the first team has already trained on the 3G pitch, further proving that it is top class facility.”
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 Sir Herbert Leon Academy to upgrade to a new 3G football pitch. This development will provide a real boost to sport in the local area. Thanks for go to Iain, Karl and Pete for taking time out to officially open it.
“Since 2000, the Football Foundation has supported grassroots projects worth more than £1.3bn, 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 Bletchley 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 if it and to stay healthy.”