Southend United FC goalkeeper Ted Smith was amongst the special guests as a new state-of-the-art changing pavilion used by Hawkwell Athletic FC was officially unveiled at the Apex Sports Ground in Hockley recently.
The Right Honourable Mark Francois, MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, was also in attendance on Saturday 7th October to praise the project, completed in partnership between Greensward Academy and The Hawks. It was made possible thanks to a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.
The grant has enabled the school and partner club Hawkwell to build a new changing pavilion comprising four changing rooms, two officials’ rooms, a clubroom, a kitchen and spectator toilets. The funding also helped install new fencing and improve the site’s car park. Previously, the site had no changing facilities and used shipping containers as equipment storage.
The pavilion, which also has provision for teaching, will provide players with a more comfortable and complete experience. The site will primarily be used by Hawkwell, who count ex-Southend United and Manchester City defender Spencer Prior amongst their alumni, whilst Academy students will also be able to take advantage of the facilities during PE lessons.
The project is expected to boost sports participation at the site by 209% across all ages. Hawkwell and Greensward worked alongside the Essex 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. They secured a £422,840 grant from the fund, plus investment from employment and skills specialist, Seetec.
Hawkwell Athletic FC have teams ranging from mini-soccer level to veterans, who play in multiple leagues including the South-East Essex Primary Mini-Soccer, Southend & District Junior and Southend Sunday Leagues. As a result of the project, the club plan to introduce 21 new teams, taking their total from 31 to 52. This supports the predicted increase of 178% in football participation across all ages at the site.
Founded in 2000, the Football Foundation are the largest UK sports charity funded by the Premier League, The FA and Government, via Sport England. They develop refurbished and new facilities and, since 2000, the Foundation has helped provide 367 grants worth £15.9m towards grassroots sports projects, worth over £29.4m across the whole of Essex.
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.
Craig Leverington, Chairman of Hawkwell Athletic FC, said: “I would like to thank Mark Francois MP and Ted Smith for attending our opening ceremony and doing us the honour of cutting our ribbon to mark the beginning of a fantastic new chapter in the future of Hawkwell Athletic and Greensward Academy.”
“I would also like to thank the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund for their fantastic work in funding grassroots football development. This facility will benefit many future generations of players, parents, students, teachers and volunteers in our local area and we can’t wait to let everyone in to take a look.”
To find out more about Football Foundation funding opportunities, visit www.footballfoundation.org.uk. Further information on grassroots Essex football can be found in the menus above, by following @EssexCountyFA on Twitter and by searching for ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.