New 3G Artificial Grass Pitch opened at Newman University, Birmingham by Darius Vassell and Sian Massey-Ellis, MBE to boost grassroots sport

Updated on: 21/09/2017

A state-of-the-art 3G Artificial Grass Pitch was officially opened yesterday by former England and Aston Villa footballer, Darius Vassell and Premier League Official Sian Massey-Ellis, MBE at Newman University in Bartley Green, Birmingham, thanks to a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.

The grant has enabled Newman University to upgrade the university’s all-weather sand-based pitch to a third generation (3G) Artificial Grass Pitch (AGP). This type of surface is now used for major football competitions including FIFA World Cup qualification matches and the UEFA Champions League. Newman University is helping to address the shortage and demand of football in Birmingham by contributing to community programmes and to facilitate governing body local strategic plans.

The new facility comprises of a main football pitch measuring 87m x 51m which is suitable for youth u16 football. The pitch is also capable of supporting three 5 a-side cross-field pitches and for other training purposes, the AGP can be let out in thirds.

Newman University Birmingham worked alongside the Birmingham County 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 site will be used by Newman University students, Birmingham City FC Community Trust, Northfield Town FC and Bartley Reds FC, other local football clubs as well as recreational users and local schools.

Staff and students from Newman University are already involved with working with the local community as they have partnered with the Aston Villa FC Foundation and colleagues at Birmingham MIND as well as Sport Birmingham to improve the mental health of people in the region.

Newman University understands its importance within the community to improve mental health of those in Birmingham. With this in mind, Newman began work on a project with Aston Villa Football Club Foundation, Birmingham MIND and Sport Birmingham. The project sees a weekly session held at the indoor football academy at Villa Park where people within the local community can meet with others, have an hour’s football training, followed by 30 minutes of social interaction. This is something that Newman University Birmingham plans to continue and the introduction of the new pitch means schemes such as this can take place in Bartley Green.

Football referee, Sian Massey-Ellis MBE is an alumnus of Newman University, studying a BSc in Sport Science and a PGCE in Secondary Physical Education, and is also an advocate of promoting football to young people. Sian was present at the official opening on Wednesday 20th September and officiated the first staff vs student football game on the new pitch. Sian has played an instrumental role in encouraging young people, specifically females, to play football or become involved in the sport in various other ways similar to her own career. The opening of such a pitch at Newman University will allow the local community to become involved within the sport.

Sian commented: "It was great to return to Newman University, where I studied, for the official opening of the new all-weather pitch and to officiate a match on it. This is a state-of-the-art facility which is going to hugely benefit the university’s players, as well as local people. I hope the new pitch will inspire more people to get active, and maybe even discover a new love of refereeing!"

The club worked in partnership with the Birmingham County FA to secure a £315,968 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.

Founded in 2000, the Football Foundation is the largest sports charity in the UK funded by the Premier League, The FA and Government, via Sport England. It develops new and refurbished grassroots sports facilities in order to improve the quality and experience of playing sport at the grassroots level. Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded around 15,000 grants worth more than £580m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £800m – £1.4bn of investment into the grassroots game.

By providing more high-quality facilities, coupled with coaching at the appropriate age group, the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund aims to improve the experience for regular players as well as attracting new players to the game. Many of the new state-of-the-art facilities will serve to strengthen the connection between professional football clubs and their local communities, particularly in the most deprived areas of the country, through the professional clubs’ community trusts’ outreach work.

Professor Scott Davidson, Vice-Chancellor at Newman University, said: "Newman University Birmingham would firstly like to thank Darius Vassell for generously volunteering his time to open our fantastic new 3G pitch, it is a privilege to welcome successful sportspeople to our campus when they are such good role models. We would also like to thank one of our alumni, Sian Massey-Ellis MBE for her continued commitment to Newman as she officiated the staff versus student football game at the opening of the pitch.

"The grant from the Football Foundation and the Premier League is one which we are extremely thankful for; the grant will not only improve our facilities for our own students but it will also give members of the wider community the opportunity to have somewhere local that they can use to train and play. Here at Newman University Birmingham we strive to be inclusive of our local community and the new pitch means that sports clubs, schools and individuals will have a better experience of playing grassroots sports here in Birmingham."

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: "The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund provides the investment necessary to improve grassroots football facilities. So, I am delighted to see Newman University Birmingham join thousands of local clubs who have reaped its benefit, in this case through the opening of a 3G Artificial Grass Pitch. 

"Having delivered over £1.4bn of grassroots sports infrastructure projects, the Football Foundation has developed a network of accessible, first-class facilities in areas they will have the greatest impact – thanks to money from the Premier League, The FA and the Government via Sport England. 

"These facilities are more than places to play football at, these facilities are hubs of physical activity, the bedrock of local communities and ‘homes from home’ for so many who also use them as social outlets to learn new skills, gain work experience and other qualifications."

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