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The new Parklife Football Hub at Graves Park
The new Parklife Football Hub at Graves Park

Sheffield gets first glimpse of future for grassroots football

From the Football Association

The FA’s ground-breaking plan to revitalise grassroots football across England is set for lift-off with the first state-of-art multi-pitch community football hub opening its doors to the Sheffield public this week.

The Parklife Football Hub Programme pilot is funded by The FA, Sheffield City Council and the Department for Culture Media and Sport in partnership with Sport England. The Premier League has committed funding to support the roll out of future hubs.

The hub which is located to the south of the city will be known as St George’s Park (SGP) Sheffield Graves. A second pilot hub, SGP Sheffield Thorncliffe, to the north of the city, will open in a month’s time.

The hubs will serve as a focal point for grassroots football activity in the local area and offer greater access to player and coach development opportunities.

Local clubs and schools are the immediate beneficiaries and teams that will host home games from Graves have received an early taste of what is to come during pre-season training.

Chief Executive Martin Glenn said: “Make no mistake, these hubs are the start of something big. The Sheffield centres mark the beginning of the end of a story all-too-familiar to the grassroots footballer of poor pitches, woefully inadequate changing facilities and a battle against the elements to get fixtures completed each winter.  The FA alongside the DCMS, the Premier League and local partners will be investing £200m to replicate this model across the country with momentum already starting to grow.”

SGP Sheffield Graves and SGP Sheffield Thorncliffe will host league matches for up to five resident clubs played on state-of-the-art 3G artificial grass pitches (AGPs) – which will combat the inevitable disruption caused by frozen and waterlogged surfaces during the harsh winter months.  Further hubs are planned in the city, with planning applications being considered for similar hubs in Liverpool and west London.

Typically a well-maintained natural turf pitch can offer six to eight playing hours of football a week, however AGPs can easily accommodate double that volume on a daily basis – massively increasing the number of playing opportunities and offering football at flexible times in-keeping with the demands of the modern footballer.

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Once fully operational, the centres will be open to the wider public and be self-sustaining via a charitable ownership model that sees the sites leased to the newly formed Sheffield Football Trust. Leisure facilities operator Pulse will be responsible for day-to-day operation of the facilities [and] have won the contract through competitive tender.

The new football hubs management model tackles head-on the over-reliance on subsidy from local authorities.

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said:  “Better football facilities are crucial to help strengthen the sport at the grassroots and that is exactly why the government is backing this project with funding. This state-of-the-art facility will be a big boost to community football in Sheffield, with the all-weather pitches perfect for year-round use as well as for developing talent and coaching young people in the city. I want to get more people involved in sport for the positive impact it has on people’s lives and partnerships such as this one, bringing together the FA, local authority and government, can help achieve that.”

Some of the inspiring quotes at the new facility

Some of the inspiring quotes at the new facility

Councillor Mary Lea, Sheffield City Council cabinet member for Culture, Parks and Leisure said: “Sport is naturally very popular in the city, and now with the opening of this hub, and the others that will follow, we can offer quality facilities to everyone who wants to play. With better homes for local teams, quality coaching and many more hours of available playing time, our young players can develop their skills and confidence and ignite a lasting passion for sport and exercise.”

 

The Sheffield pilot has been funded to the tune of £7.1 million by The FA, The Government and Sheffield City Council.

The centres will be under the stewardship of the Sheffield Football Trust – made up of a consortium of key stakeholders – including the two professional clubs in the city, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United,  The Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA, Sheffield City Council, The FA and representatives from the local football community.

For more information about the Parklife Football Hub Programme, please contact Tony Snow via Anthony.Snow@TheFA.com.