Chelsea Ladies duo Hannah Blundell and Drew Spence joined Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling to officially open a new third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) on behalf of the Matthew Arnold School on Friday.
The Chelsea Foundation has a long-standing relationship with the school, running a unique BTEC academic and football programme in association with Matthew Arnold College Academy, as well as a Saturday morning programme for all local youngsters to come and enjoy the facilities.
This relationship was furthered on Friday with Foundation coaches leading a training session along with Blundell and Spence before Stelling, who hosts Soccer Saturday, officially opened the new facility.
The new surface was made possible thanks to a Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund grant of £254,438 and now means the Staines-based school can provide a year-round football facility in the form of their 3G AGP.
Upon opening the new surface and watching the Chelsea Foundation coaches in action Stelling said: ‘We hear so much about the so-called gulf that exists between the elite level and the grassroots game but Chelsea, who one of the biggest clubs in world football, are helping to bridge that gap and are keeping kids involved with the very top of the game.
‘It is great to see a club of Chelsea’s stature getting involved in this because grassroots football helps absolutely everyone.
‘This is a really wonderful facility, it’s a high-quality space to play football on all year-round. Sites like this are crucial to improving the grassroots game and enabling more people to play the game – and that can only help us develop the next generation of home-grown talent.’ In addition to the full-size 3G AGP, the site also boasts a smaller 3G AGP which the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund helped to refurbish with an £88,000 grant. The work also included replacing the existing fencing and the instillation of sports equipment.
Defender Blundell, 19, said: ‘It's fantastic to come down and see this brilliant new facility.
‘The Chelsea Foundation work closely with Matthew Arnold and having this additional surface, due to the additional funding, is a big boost to the boys and girls who will get to use it on a regular basis.’ Roland Davey, assistant head teacher at Matthew Arnold School, said: ‘This facility is absolutely invaluable to the school. Both pitches are used day-in day-out for everything from P.E. lessons to league matches, to coaching assessments for our pupils.
‘We are linked in with Chelsea with a College programme for 16-18 year olds and this additional funding will enhance that work so thanks must go to the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund for helping to make all of this happen.’ By providing more high-quality facilities, coupled with coaching at the appropriate age group, the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is funded by the Premier League, The FA and the Government, via Sport England, and delivered by the Football Foundation, 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.