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Leatherhead united thanks to Facilities Fund

21 Nov 2017
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Junior football club in Surrey can now thrive in one location after Premier League money helped pay for new 3G pitch

Over the last 10 years Leatherhead Youth FC has become a bustling junior club in north Surrey that provides young people from Under-7 to Under-21 the chance to play football.

But as the name of its River Lane home suggests, the club's location next to water is problematic as winter starts to take hold.

"We have got a river running through our grounds and that can cause a lot of problems at the river end of pitches," explains Leatherhead Youth general manager Nick Brown.

"The main floodlit grass pitch used to get very bad and as the nights closed in during the winter, it could get very boggy and there were plenty of times where games got called off."

The pitch issue not only affected the weekend's matches, it also had an impact on how many of Leatherhead Youth's teams could train at the ground during the week.

"As teams couldn't train on the grass pitches throughout the winter months we would have different venues around Surrey on different nights of the week where our teams would go and train," says Brown.

"The club wasn't together in one training hub."

But 18 months ago, one of Leatherhead's two grass pitches was replaced by a brand new floodlit 3G artificial grass pitch thanks to a grant of £457,212 from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.

The impact on the club has been significant.

"We now do not have matches consistently called off," says Brown. "Last winter was particularly bad and for about a month no matches were possible on the grass pitches.

Leatherhead Youth FC
The Facilities Fund pitch has enabled Leatherhead Youth FC to expand its offer to 30 teams

"But with the 3G pitch, we can play three or four matches every Sunday and we can also host if an away fixture is called off. The level of disruption is tremendously reduced."

The facility, which was officially opened by former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jamie Redknapp last weekend, has allowed Leatherhead Youth to recruit more players.

They have increased the number of teams they run from 24 to 30 while there is the added benefit of not having players training at different venues.

"The whole club feels as one now rather than having everyone dotted around," says Brown. "In terms of having a bit of pride in our facilities and in the way we play, it makes a massive difference.

"It's also helped with increasing our membership because people can see the facilities and that everyone is training at the same place.

"The pitch allows kids from all backgrounds to join a club that gives them the opportunity to train once or twice a week and then play at the weekend, taking them off the streets or games consoles. It's key to making sure that kids have something else to do."

It's not just Leatherhead Youth that are feeling the benefit of the new facility as local schools are also able to use the pitch.

"There's a few schools that aren't able to host games on their grass pitches during the winter and they hire our facilities for games and training," says Brown.

"Being part of the local community is a big thing from our point of view and our key aim now is to develop more relationships with other schools and local community projects."

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