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Watmore: Facilities will inspire new generation

9 Mar 2020
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Sunderland winger helps to open new pitches delivered by the Football Foundation which will be used by thousands in local community

As someone who has been at Sunderland for the last seven years, winger Duncan Watmore is well aware of just how important football is to the local community.

And last week he was on hand to officially open new facilities that will allow a new generation to emulate their footballing heroes for years to come.

The facilities, located in Washington, Downhill and Ford Quarry, have been made possible with funding from the Premier League, The FA and the Government's Football Foundation.

Investment into these three hubs has led to the creation of 10 full-size third-generation artificial grass pitches as well as new and refurbished buildings at each site, with changing rooms, cafe areas, and social and education spaces. 

'Unbelievable scale'

"The sheer scale of this project is pretty unbelievable, really," Watmore said. "Sunderland is a city with a really rich footballing history and with a project as big as this, it's only going to get richer."

"I just love playing football and it's had such a profound impact on me both physically and mentally.

"It's brilliant to know that, with investment from the Football Foundation, there are thousands of people who will be able to experience these same benefits over the coming years."

The demand for use at the new facilities is breaking Football Foundation records. The Washington hub, which has been in operation since November 2019, has already attracted 16,000 sign-ups.

Community outreach

Having a safe space to play on surfaces that are available all year round will help the Foundation of Light, AFC Sunderland's charitable arm, in its outreach work with the local community.

"Facilities like this allow us to do so much in terms of our Premier League Kicks programme and reducing anti-social behaviour," said Kevin Darke, Foundation of Light inclusion coordinator.

"With this, people are going to get out, they are going to get physically more active. Mentally, it's going to have that benefit as well. Socially they are going to come out and they are going to meet new people at these sites.

"Across the board it will make a massive difference to people's lives."

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