Sheffield City Council teams up with FA in pioneering football scheme

A national Football Association (FA) grassroots scheme, in which Sheffield is leading the way nationally, is set to take a further step forward.

In what is the first of such partnerships in the country, Sheffield City Council has teamed up with The FA to invest in a number of new football hubs across the city, in a bid to get more young people playing football on top-class facilities to rival any in the country.

The first two new football centres are currently under construction at Graves in the south of the city and Thorncliffe at High Green, and it is announced today that the potential site for a third has now been selected.

Subject to planning approval and finalising external funding, this third hub would be a £6m football facility and major public fitness centre on the site of the former Westfield school in Westfield Crescent, Mosborough.

It could open as soon as spring 2017, with two full-sized 3G artificial grass pitches, three natural grass pitches, an affordable and public fitness centre, changing rooms and an education room.

Councillor Sioned-Mair Richards, cabinet member for neighbourhoods at Sheffield City Council, said: “As home to the world’s oldest football club, it is only fitting that Sheffield should be leading the way nationally with this ‘Parklife’ scheme.

“The main aim is to halt the decline in football and turn it from a sport that requires subsidy into one that generates surplus, that can be invested in future facilities and the development of the sport.

“Football is Sheffield’s biggest team sport with over 800 teams, the majority of which are junior and youth teams. It is significant for sports participation, community activity and associated health benefits.

“This partnership with the FA is a great thing for our city. I’m delighted to see this grassroots scheme moving forward with the announcement of the third football hub site, which will also create a fantastic new public health facility in the south east of Sheffield.”

Kelly Simmons, The FA’s director of participation and development, said: “We are now a heartbeat away from the start of Parklife, with the first two hubs in Sheffield taking shape, a third in development and the process of finding an operator nearing completion.

“The vision of building football hubs in up to 30 key cities and towns has begun and we applaud Sheffield for leading the way.”

A national tender exercise has recently taken place to appoint a leisure operator to manage the new football facilities. The preferred bidder is Pulse Fitness and subject to finalising contract details, they will manage Thorncliffe, Graves and Westfield hubs and also run the new fitness facilities at Westfield.

“We are proud to be supporting The FA and Sheffield City Council on this new project,” said Warren Ormerod, Director of Soccer at Pulse.

“With years of experience operating soccer centres in Barrow and Wednesbury, we feel that the expertise of our in-house teams will help us ensure we can provide more opportunities for communities in Sheffield to get involved in football at a grassroots level.

“We have a proven track record in transforming all-weather pitches into profitable enterprises and we look forward to working closely with the FA and Sheffield City Council.”

The first two sites at Graves and Thorncliffe – which are being built alongside new leisure centres – are now under construction and are set to open in spring next year.

Costs of the £6m Westfield project will be met through a mix of funding from the Football Association and Sport England, and support funding from Sheffield City Council.

Future development of football in the city, including overseeing the new hub sites, will be the responsibility of a new charitable football trust, the first of its kind in the country. Any surplus generated by the trust will be reinvested in the development of football across Sheffield.

Eventually, it is hoped that the national hub scheme will involve up to 30 towns and cities, after Sheffield has acted as the national pilot.

First published on www.sheffieldnewsroom.co.uk 25 November 2015