Their new facility, at the Aspray Arena in Willenhall, was made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund – delivered by the Football Foundation.
Staffordshire FA's Chief Executive Adam Evans also attended the official opening of the new all-weather pitch, which took place during a pre-season friendly between the site’s main user, Step 5 club Sporting Khalsa FC, and Hereford FC. They were able to take advantage of the brand new pitch, which has been upgraded from the grass stadia pitch. The original surface was prone to ‘cutting up’ during matches.
Sporting Khalsa Community Facilities Ltd., which was set up by a group of friends at a local Sikh temple in 1991, received the investment to help replace the existing pitch with the new 3G AGP. They have also been able to perform other works, such as improving the existing floodlights.
The new facility provides a more reliable, consistent surface during training and matches, and can be used all-year-round. This will improve scheduling flexibility, and reduce the risk of match cancellations due to bad weather. Sporting Khalsa FC’s players, including three women’s sides and its first team in the Midland League Premier Division, are set to benefit from this along with a range of other users.
In addition, the new surface provides a state-of-the-art venue for Walsall FC to deliver player development sessions. Users also have access to five small-sided 3G AGPs and changing provision on-site, as part of the Black Country Performance Hub. The facilities, with the addition of the full-size AGP, will help to grow local community football.
Sporting Khalsa Community Facilities Ltd. were awarded a £579,564 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the project. They also received £75,000 from Sport England. The organisation worked alongside the Football Foundation and the Staffordshire 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.
Across users, it is hoped that the upgraded surface will support the creation of 42 new teams – a number of which would be within Sporting Khalsa FC. The club hope to grow from their current 17 teams to a total of 24, with new sides in a range of age groups. This will help the club to provide a complete player pathway, for both male and female members.
A boost in overall football participation of 291% on-site is predicted as a result of the new teams. Improving provision for the local women’s game is also a key aim, with Sporting Khalsa FC’s Ladies senior team currently in the FA Women’s Premier League Midlands Division One. Hopes to establish a number of new girls’ teams, from the Under-7 level upwards, also supports the expected growth in football participation.
Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 210 grants worth £16.1m towards grassroots sports projects worth £30m across the whole of Staffordshire.
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 Sporting Khalsa Community Facilities Ltd. has now opened their state-of-the-art 3G AGP in Willenhall, thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.
“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.”
Charles Johnston, Sport England Property Director, said: “Sport England are proud to invest National Lottery funding in creating this wonderful facility which will enable more people in the local community to enjoy the benefits of being active the whole year round.”