Tuesday 14 April 2015

A multi-million pound grassroots football project is set to get underway in Sheffield, after planning permission was granted for the first of the new pitches this afternoon.

In what is the first scheme of its kind in the country, Sheffield City Council and The FA are set to invest around £9.6m in a new wave of football hubs.

This is the biggest-ever single investment in outdoor sports facilities in the city, with the majority of funding coming from national sources.

Paul Billington, director of culture, sport and leisure at Sheffield City Council, said: “I’m really pleased that planning permission has been granted for the first of these new football facilities, which will significantly improve the quality of the grassroots football provision here in Sheffield.

“As well as being a boost for those who already play football, this new partnership with The FA is expected to increase participation and, in the longer term, provide a financial saving to the council as more play is concentrated on fewer pitches.

“We will be protecting football facilities from a potential downward spiral of declining quality and falling participation and instead looking to better pitches, more people playing and new income to invest in facilities.

“I look forward to seeing these new schemes coming through to fruition, and the next generation of young people growing up in a city with access to top-quality football pitches.”

The first of the new football facilities, for which planning permission was granted today, will be built at the Graves tennis and leisure centre site, off Bochum Parkway, in the south of the city.

A new £16m leisure centre is currently under development on the site, adjacent to the existing tennis centre, and is set to open in summer 2016.

The Graves development, to be operated by Places for People Leisure, will include a six-lane 25m swimming pool, a separate learner pool, a major new fitness suite and studios, two additional indoor tennis courts and Sheffield’s first-ever dedicated gymnastics and trampolining centre.

It will also incorporate health and research facilities as part of the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM), bringing health and wellbeing services under one roof.

The footballing facilities will incorporate two state-of-the-art floodlit 3G artificial pitches and a pavilion with changing rooms, a club room and education space. Drainage improvements will also be made to one existing grass pitch on the site.

Football is Sheffield’s biggest team sport with more than 800 teams, the majority of which are junior and youth teams.

The FA is proposing to set up a local charitable trust to oversee its investment programme. In some cases, the trust would take an operating interest in the new facilities and the resulting income would be reinvested in Sheffield’s football.

The FA will go out to tender to seek an operator for the new pitches at Graves. The exact number of hubs to be built across Sheffield is still to be confirmed.