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1,000 sports pitches protected and improved thanks to legacy funding

November 29, 2013

97 sports projects across England are to receive a share of £5.5 million of National Lottery funding from Sport England’s ‘Protecting Playing Fields’ fund to improve and protect their playing fields.

The funding will allow the projects to upgrade nearly 100 sites and see over 230 sports pitches protected for a minimum of 25 years. This brings the total number of sports pitches improved and protected by the fund to almost 1,000 – totalling 3,500 acres - since 2011.

Sport England Chair, Nick Bitel, said: “We know how valuable playing fields are to communities throughout the country, giving individuals and teams somewhere to get active and enjoy sport. This fund allows us to maintain and protect these spaces so that high quality sports pitches are available in the heart of communities.”

Due to the huge demand for the programme and the high quality of applications received the initial £4 million budget for the latest funding round was increased by £1.5 million, allowing more projects to benefit.

Each of the 97 projects will receive capital investments of between £20,000 and £50,000. Among those is the historic Hambledon Cricket Club in Hampshire.  Formed in 1750 the club is credited with developing the laws of modern cricket. However in recent years the club’s wickets have deteriorated, making play difficult. The club will invest £22,271 lottery award from Sport England to improve and renovate its pitch helping to preserve the club.

Mark Le Clercq, Chairman: “We are so grateful to Sport England for their fantastic award, this initiative will guarantee the quality of our pitches and enable us to provide the best facilities for our young players of the future. This investment will be enormous encouragement to all our volunteers, who we train to coach and manage our youngsters in the pursuit of excellence.”

One project to receive funding is:

Maryport ARLFC, a rugby club in Cumbria, which has been awarded £50,000 to improve drainage of their pitch which is currently unplayable during adverse weather conditions. This will put an end to the club’s ‘unofficial break’ and allow teams to play and train throughout the year.

Minister for Sport Helen Grant said: “Protecting and improving playing fields is crucial to improve people’s experience of sport. Since 2011 Sport England’s Protecting Playing Field’s fund has improved almost 1,000 sports pitches. The latest round will see £5.5 million of National Lottery money protect over 230 sports pitches for a minimum of 25 years providing a real boost for community sport.”

Of the 97 projects receiving funding in today’s announcement, 33 wish to become Queen Elizabeth II Fields after agreeing to dedicate their playing field in “perpetuity”.  This is thanks to a partnership with Fields in Trust (FIT) which is running the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge as part of the programme to mark the Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Helen Griffiths, Chief Executive of Fields in Trust, said: “Fields in Trust is delighted that the Protecting Playing Fields fund has raised the awareness of the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge to so many sites and led to numerous expressions of interest in being protected through the Challenge.  Investment to improve spaces such as those protected through Fields in Trust and increase participation on them is always much needed and so it is fantastic to see the funding provided by Sport England.”

Coinciding with today’s announcement, Sport England, in partnership with the Football Association, England and Wales Cricket Board, Rugby Football Union, Rugby Football League and England Hockey Board, has developed new playing pitch strategy guidance. Aimed primarily at local authorities, the guidance helps understand and assess the need for playing pitches and improve provision within the local authority. >>more