Fever pitch over new facility

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Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones recently unveiled a brand new all-weather pitch for St John Fisher Catholic High School recently.

The project, which has attracted praise from England Manager Gareth Southgate, was made possible thanks to a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, delivered by the Football Foundation.

The MP was joined by Max Mills MBE and Mike Knowles, both staff members who were integral to the success of the project.

The new floodlit third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP), can be used all-year-round and is expected to boost overall sports participation at the site by 647 per cent.

The new pitch will be used as a base for all training by partner clubs Harrogate Town AFC and Pannal Sports JFC. Harrogate will also use the pitch for holiday clubs.

The 3G AGP will not only benefit the partner clubs; St John Fisher’s pupils will be able to take advantage of the new pitch. This will not be limited to football, as the playing surface will also be used for touch rugby and multi-sport PE lessons.

The school worked alongside the West Riding FA and the Football Foundation 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.

The new surface will serve as a training hub for the West Riding FA. The site will also be used by a number of local leagues including the Harrogate Junior League, Harrogate District League and the West Riding FA Under-21 League. This in addition to local clubs such as Knaresborough Town FC, Hampthswaite United FC and Beckwithshaw FC, who will use the facility.

Increasing female and veteran football participation respectively will be key objectives at the facility. Walking football sessions are planned at the pitch, and eight new female teams will be established – including a women’s open-age side. This will take the total from six to 14 female teams at the site, supporting a large boost in girls’ football participation.

The club worked in partnership with the West Riding FA to secure a £347,000 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.

Gareth Southgate, England Manager and Football Foundation Ambassador, said: “I have always been a big supporter of grassroots football and facilities such as this are vital to its progress.

“Floodlit all-weather pitches allow training and matches to occur all-year-round regardless of the weather, which helps to increase participation levels in the sport.

“I was so pleased to hear that this pitch will help Harrogate Town AFC to introduce five new girls’ sides and three new disability teams.

“Players who make up all our national teams have come up from the grassroots game and this pitch could produce some stars of the future, as well encourage more people to play for the love of doing so.”

Andrew Jones, MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, said: “I would like to congratulate St John Fisher Catholic High School on bringing this project to fruition, and thank them for inviting me along to help open the new all-weather pitch.

“This is a wonderful facility that will really benefit our local area, and I am so glad to see it already in use.“