The Mayor of Stockton, Cllr. Eileen Johnson (centre), was delighted to join in the celebrations for Stockton Town FC, whose first team facilities have now been completed. As well as providing a state-of-the-art environment for its players, the club’s new facilities will also benefit the adult game in the local area. 

Stockton Town FC, nicknamed The Anchors, celebrated the completion of their first team facilities in County Durham recently (Friday 22 June), with help from Stockton Sixth Form College. The club have been able to install a state-of-the-art all-weather pitch, new changing provision and a seated spectator stand on a site shared with the College.

The project was made possible by a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation. Premier League investment through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF), the sister organisation of the Football Foundation, was also awarded. The new facilities have allowed the club, and the local grassroots game, to achieve unprecedented success with Stockton Town FC’s recent appearance in the FA Vase Final of 2018.

The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund grant enabled Stockton Town FC, working with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, to install the new third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) close to its existing home site. The new pitch caters for the club’s first team, which plays in the Northern League Division One.

This is in addition to Stockton Town FC’s existing facilities nearby, including: four full-size pitches; two 9v9 pitches; four Mini-Soccer pitches; a training area and a six team changing pavilion, originally developed thanks to £424,000 of investment through the Football Foundation back in 2008.

The existing facilities were at full capacity with the club, so did not allow room for progression. By moving the bulk of their first team’s training and fixtures to the all-weather pitch and new supporting infrastructure, Stockton Town FC have been able to free up space at their existing site. This will help them to retain players as well as build up new teams. Stockton Sixth Form College will also benefit from the new pitch, which they use during curriculum hours.

Stockton Town FC were awarded a £281,691 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the new all-weather surface. The project has also included the installation of a second changing facility, nearer to the 3G AGP, and a seated spectator stand. Both were supported by separate FSIF grants totalling £63,265. This was necessary for the site to meet the FA National Ground Grading Criteria requirements, especially with the club’s promotion to Step 5.

Stockton Town FC worked alongside the Football Foundation and the Durham FA 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.

By relocating their first team to the new facility, the club have created more room to grow at the original site. An overall increase in football participation of 229% is expected as a result, with plans to increase the number of teams from 22 to 31. Of the nine new teams, four will be girls’ sides – supporting a predicted 394% growth in on-site female football participation.

An impressive 456% boost for football participation in those over the age of 26 is also expected. This will be through plans to introduce walking football, recreational sessions, a small-sided league and new open-age teams. The club already has a relationship with local disability group Brighter Futures, and hope that one of these open-age teams will be a disability football side.

Founded in 2000, the Football Foundation is the largest sports charity in the UK funded by the Premier League, The FA and Government, via Sport England. It develops new and refurbished grassroots sports facilities in order to improve the quality and experience of playing sport at the grassroots level. Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded around 17,000 grants worth more than £615m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £817m – £1.4bn of investment into the grassroots game.

Funded with £6.5m each year from the Premier League, the FSIF – the sister organisation of the Football Foundation – is the country’s largest provider of grants towards projects that help improve the comfort and safety of lower league football grounds in both the professional and amateur game. These improvements range from new football stands and turnstiles to floodlighting and improved provision for disabled supporters.

Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 288 grants worth £17.1m towards grassroots sports projects worth almost £50m across the whole of Durham.

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, through the professional clubs’ community trusts’ outreach work.

Martin Hillerby, Chairman of Stockton Town FC, said: “The funding the 3G facility development received from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund has been instrumental in the incredible progression of senior football within the Club and its progress within the National Pyramid System.

“This will be further endorsed this summer by the introduction of another open age men’s team in the Wearside League Development Division. The new facility has also been hugely beneficial for all of our junior players who have played their home games there during the extreme winter we have endured, which has not only kept them playing football but also on a brilliant playing surface, proving the facilities impact on grassroots football at all levels.”

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation and the FSIF, said: “Grassroots sport plays an important role in communities across the UK, creating opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. That is why I am delighted that Stockton Town FC now has a state-of-the-art facilities, thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund and the FSIF.

“Continuing to improve access to high-quality facilities like this one is a key aim for the Premier League, The FA and the Government.
 Delivered by the Football Foundation, their funding supports projects for clubs and organisations all over the country and is helping to boost the number of people benefiting from sport through better facilities.

“Grassroots football provides so many benefits for members of the community, not least of which is the opportunity to enjoy themselves. Love for our national game, something that can be found across the country, is an integral part of what drives the Foundation and its Funding Partners to keep increasing the standards and quality of our facilities.”