school sport

NEW PITCHES: Pictured at the grand opening of St Augustine's new sports pitches are Phil Hartley, Jeff Culshaw, Anthony McNamara, Yasmin Desai, David Burgess and Pele Mathauda.
NEW PITCHES: Pictured at the grand opening of St Augustine's new sports pitches are Phil Hartley, Jeff Culshaw, Anthony McNamara, Yasmin Desai, David Burgess and Pele Mathauda.

ST AUGUSTINE’S are celebrating after their pitch project finally came to fruition.

The Billington high school cut the ribbon on their new playing fields on Saturday, bringing to an end a six-year wait for better facilities.

The school had pitches with such poor drainage that they were only achieving around 15% of curriculum use, and were, as such, not fit for any extracurricular use by the school or wider community.

This scarcity meant that local sportspeople had to travel anywhere between four and six miles to participate in sport.

With a lack of suitable, top class playing fields in the Ribble Valley area, it was decided to set up a school and community bid team to try to secure funding to install completely new drainage systems.

The community partner from the outset was Wilpshire Wanderers FC, who have been very active in the process.

The objective was to convert the 32,000 square metres of playing fields at the school - which has a strong tradition of sporting achievements - into a facility that met all of the needs of the school, and was potentially further suitable for use, over time, by other Charter Standard football clubs in the wider community.

Initial bids for grants in 2005 and 2006 were not successful, on the basis of there being higher priorities.

However, a third bid was submitted to the Football Foundation, and was successful, being awarded Football Foundation funding in 2007.

This was then supported by Lancashire County Council, who confirmed their significant contribution at the same time.

The cocktail funding was made up of of £130,000 from the Football Foundation, £69,000 from Lancashire County Council, £5,000 from Ribble Valley Borough Council and additional school and community fund-raising contributions.

A key partner in the process has been the Lancashire Football Association, based at the County Ground, Leyland, who offered superb technical advice and proved vital in putting together a successful bid.

The project has realised the following pitch configuration of two full-size football pitches, one full-size dual rugby and football pitch, two 9v9 or junior 11-a-side pitches, two mini-soccerpitches and training grid areas.

All this lends itself to an estimated ten-fold increase in the number of football matches that will be played annually at the site.

While the playing fields will cater primarily for football, more than a third of activity will be other sports, such as athletics and rugby.

Forecasts predict that the number of weekly male users of the site will rocket by 685%, while female use will increase by 324%.

The pitches were officially declared open on Saturday, with representatives from the Accrington and District Football League, school, Lancashire FA - in the shape of Chief Executive, and former Clitheroe manager Dave Burgess, Lancashire County Council, Ribble Valley Borough Council and Wilpshire Wanderers Football Club.