Non-League Day

Champion Morgan sees how Premier League supports grass roots

23 Mar 2024
Wes Morgan, Non-League Day, Dunkirk FC

Ex-Leicester City captain Wes Morgan returns to Dunkirk FC to see how Premier League investment has helped his former club

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This weekend marks the latest Non-League Day, which celebrates grassroots football and encourages fans of Premier League clubs to take in a local non-league fixture over the international break.

As part of the Premier League's support for the campaign, we are featuring some of the top-flight players who have gained valuable experiences and lessons in the non-league game.

Wes Morgan

Premier League-winning captain Wes Morgan returned to his roots to see how Premier League investment has revitalised one of his former clubs.

Morgan played 50 matches for United Counties League Division One side Dunkirk FC in the 1999/2000 season before being scouted and signed by Nottingham Forest.

The club are in Step 6 of the non-league game, or the 10th tier of the English football pyramid. Morgan went back to Lenton Lane to find out how Dunkirk's ground has been significantly upgraded thanks to funding from the Premier League Stadium Fund.

"It's good to see how the facilities have developed," Morgan says. "There's been a lot of investment over the years and a lot of changes which are very noticeable from my time.

"That support is very important. It helps teams grow, improve and makes the game better."

Grants totalling more than £130,000 have been provided to Dunkirk since 2002, enabling improvements to floodlights, fencing and turnstiles, as well as the provision of a new covered stand for 100 spectators.

"Premier League investment has made a huge difference, it's been massive," says Richard Hannigan, Dunkirk's first-team manager. "All the fencing around the pitch and the stand in the far corner, that's all been added in the last couple of years.

"We've even got a team on a Sunday that come and share the facility - that puts money back in the club. It's a huge thing for a club like us."

The Premier League Stadium Fund awards capital grants to lower-league clubs to support improvement of their stadium facilities for players, supporters and officials. Since 2000 it has distributed almost £200million to over 1,000 lower-league clubs.

"We could not afford to do it without funding from the Premier League and the Football Foundation," says Cyril Allen, Dunkirk's treasurer. "It's absolutely crucial to clubs at our level."

Wes Morgan, Dunkirk FC, Non-League Day

After 400 matches in a Forest shirt, Morgan transferred to Leicester City, where he led the Foxes to the 2015/16 Premier League title in one of sport's most remarkable achievements.

He joined a 200-strong crowd as promotion-chasing Dunkirk narrowly lost 1-0 to Saffron Dynamo.

"My earliest memories of football was here," Morgan says. "It's really important, it was a good stepping stone in my career."

Wes Morgan, Dunkirk FC, Non-League Day

Morgan also made sure he picked up Cyril, a former Dunkirk coach, en route to Lenton Lane, returning the favour for the lifts the club stalwart had given to him 25 years ago.

"I was a local lad, lived in the Meadows, bit of a deprived area, so it was fantastic for Cyril to always offer a lift," Morgan says. "I'll always appreciate and remember those little things that have helped me along the way and played a big part in my career."

The Premier League Trophy, was also on display in the dressing-room ahead of the game, giving Dunkirk fans the opportunity to have their photos taken with it ahead of kick-off.

Wes Morgan, Dunkirk FC, Non-League Day
Bright Sparks at Saffron Dynamo

Dunkirk's opponents Saffron Dynamo are another longstanding club at the centre of its local East Midlands community who have been helped by the Premier League.

Established in 1963 by a group of friends including 76-year-old Bob King, who remains involved, the club now has 17 teams including youth, girls, senior and veterans categories.

The club's seven-a-side floodlit 3G pitch installed in 2018 was thanks to £363,000 from the Football Foundation, co-funded by the Premier League, The FA and government.

Elsewhere, Premier League Stadium Fund funding of +£35,000 helped to build a new 50-seat stand, pitch barrier and floodlight upgrades.

"It's a hotbed of football down here," King says. "Most of our players come from within a radius of five miles and we do what we can within our budgets to provide the best facilities we can to play football.

"More than 300 players from five-year-olds to walking footballers use the facilities every week, and if you add in parents and fans, 500 people come through the gates.

"We're very grateful for the support which has made what we've done possible. We have had the best part of three-quarters of a million pounds from the Football Foundation and Premier League and it wouldn’t have been possible without that."

PL support for wider football

The investment at Dunkirk is part of the significant financial support the Premier League offers grassroots clubs.

Through the Premier League Stadium Fund, £192.7m of Premier League money has been invested into improving the stadiums and facilities of clubs in the EFL, National League System and Women's Football Pyramid since 2000. More than 5,630 grants have been provided to 1,083 clubs across 114 leagues.

Between 2022-2025, the League's commitment to investing £1.6billion to the wider game is the biggest voluntary contribution to communities and other good causes of any football league in the world. Of this, £400m will go to funding projects including the development of facilities and community and education programmes.


The Premier League will also provide approximately £16m of financial support to National League clubs in solidarity, Academy and community funding between 2022-2025.

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