Pioneering football project to get underway in Sheffield

A PIONEERING grassroots football project which will see £9.6m invested in new facilities across Sheffield is set to get underway, after city planners today granted permission for the first new pitches.

The Football Association launched its grassroots football initiative at U Mix Centre in Sheffield in October.

The Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Dyke announced the project in October, which ultimately aims to improve the performance of the England team by spending £240m on artificial pitches nationwide.

Sheffield’s scheme is the first of its kind in the country, and represents the biggest-ever single investment in outdoor sports facilities in the city. The majority of funding comes from national sources, including the FA, with additional cash coming from Sheffield Council.

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Its director of culture, sport and leisure, Paul Billington, 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.

The Football Association launched its grassroots football initiative at U Mix Centre in Sheffield in October.

“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 facilities, for which planning permission was granted today, will be built at the Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre site, in the south of the city.

Last month building work started on a new £16m leisure centre adjacent to the tennis centre, which includes a six-lane 25m swimming pool, separate learner pool, new fitness suite, two additional indoor tennis courts and the city’s first dedicated gymnastics and trampolining centre.

The new facilities will open in 2016, and along with a second development at Thorncliffe in High Green, in the north of the city, are the first new public leisure facilities to be built in Sheffield in a decade.

It will also incorporate health and research facilities as part of the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM).

The football 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. Work is expected to begin within the next few weeks.

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, and will go out to tender to seek an operator for the new pitches at Graves.

At the launch of the project, Mr Dyke said he hoped the investment would help produce more English players capable of playing in the national side, but also at lower levels, without being reliant on the weather for good facilities.