Tuesday 27 May 2014
Robert Clack School in Barking and Dagenham has a close relationship with its local Barclays Premier League club West Ham United, with the club’s Under-15 and Under-16 players taking GCSE qualifications at the school. It is also where the coaches from the West Ham United Community Trust provide projects for the local people, too.
This relationship between the school, the club and the community will benefit greatly from the installation of a new third-generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP), which was made possible by a £450,000 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund (PLFAFF).
It is the first 3G pitch in the Dagenham area and as well as the school who will enjoy its use, there are four local football clubs - Aztec, Roneo Colts, Byron Red Star and Dagenham Park Rangers - who operate more than 60 teams between them and whose matches will no longer be vulnerable to the elements.
In total, within the next five years it is expected that nearly 3,500 people will use the facilities on a weekly basis, with two-thirds of them playing football.
The school worked in partnership with the Essex County FA to secure the grant from the Facilities Fund, which is funded by the Premier League, The FA, and the Government, via Sport England, and is delivered on their behalf by the Football Foundation.
Robert Clack’s headmaster, Sir Paul Grant, was grateful to the PLFAFF for helping make the facility reality and foresees it making a big impact on the community and, hopefully, West Ham in the future.
"It's great having these facilities for the players of east London where they'll be learning to produce the next stars for West Ham"
"Already there has been huge interest from clubs in the area to use the facilities," Sir Paul said. "We're hoping that thousands of young people use that pitch and regenerate and revitalise football in the area.
"We need to bring more players through, boys and girls, because both forms of football are really very important. We need to increase participation and if you increase participation that will help to produce elite players as well."
Joe Cole, a product of the West Ham youth system but who is looking for a new club for next season, came along to the school to open the new facilities and was impressed with what he saw, not just the pitch but some of the performances from local boys in the exhibition matches for the event.
"Surfaces like this, funded by the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, are absolutely first class because they don't get waterlogged, and when it gets dark the floodlights mean you can keep on playing," Cole said. "You can see how much of a draw this facility will be and, judging by some of the skills I've seen on show, there are some stars of the future out there."
"It's great having these facilities for the players of east London where they'll be learning to produce the next stars for West Ham. With the connection of the club to the community it's great all round. Things get better and facilities get better as schools invest more in sport, which is great. It's very important for kids of all ages and abilities."
The PLFAFF, which was launched in October 2013, will invest £102m into the country's sports infrastructure over the three years to 2016. Forecasts suggest during that period the PLFAFF will build more than 100 new changing-room facilities, 150 new or refurbished 3G pitches and about 200 grass pitches.