The facility was made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.
The grant enabled the school to replace an existing third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) with a brand new all-weather surface. Due to the school’s current lack of grass pitches, the original facility was heavily used. Having been installed back in 2003, it was no longer fit for purpose as a result.
Now, the Academy's pupils will benefit from a state-of-the-art new surface, which will support different formats of the game. These are set to include veteran and disability provision for the area, with a number of local grassroots sports organisations set to take advantage of the upgraded facility.
The original all-weather pitch was already serving as a hub site for the Gloucestershire FA's referee and coaching programmes – something that will now be better supported by City Academy's improved playing surface. The school’s partner clubs Bristol Central YFC and Bristol Inner City YFC, as well as the first LGBT club set up in the area, Bristol Panthers FC, will also use the new facility.
City Academy were awarded a £332,370 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the project. The school worked alongside the Football Foundation and the Gloucestershire FA 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.
It is hoped that a total of 15 new teams will be established across the school's two partner clubs, Bristol Central YFC and Inner City YFC. These will be focussed in the junior section, with a 54% rise in Under-14 football participation predicted on-site as a result. In addition, thanks to female clubs such as Easton Cowgirls FC set to use the upgraded surface, a 215% boost in girls’ participation in the game is also expected.
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 over 17,000 grants worth more than £615m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of £817m – £1.4bn of investment into the grassroots game.
Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 247 grants worth £12.2m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £34.5m across the whole of Gloucestershire.
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.
Lloyd Kelly, who joined the professional club’s Academy aged 12, said: “Being able to run out at lunch and have a game on the pitch was brilliant at school, so it’s great that students here have got a state-of-the-art new surface now! Seeing money being channelled into the grassroots from the top of the game, through the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, goes to show just how important football is to this country. I hope the students and local clubs can make the most of their new facility, which is bound to open up more opportunities in football for the area.”
Jon Angell, City Academy Principal, said: “I'd like to thank Lloyd Kelly for officially opening our all-weather surface. The pitch, funded by the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, means that in the heart of Bristol there is a very high quality, all-year-round football pitch for the numerous local clubs to train and play on. We will also use the pitch during the school day for PE lessons and for fixtures against other local schools, all contributing to healthy grassroots football in this area.”
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “Grassroots sport plays an important role in communities across the UK, creating opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. That is why I am delighted that City Academy has now opened their state-of-the-art 3G AGP in Bristol, thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund. I’d like to thank Lloyd Kelly for taking the time to give back to the grassroots and officially unveil the facility.
“Continuing to improve access to high-quality facilities like this one is a key aim for the Premier League, The FA and the Government. Delivered by the Football Foundation, their funding supports projects for clubs and organisations all over the country and is helping to boost the number of people benefiting from sport through better facilities.
“Grassroots football provides so many benefits for members of the community, not least of which is the opportunity to enjoy themselves. Love for our national game, something that can be found across the country, is an integral part of what drives the Foundation and its Funding Partners to keep increasing the standards and quality of our facilities.”