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Liverpool community enjoying fruits of Facilities Fund investment

Tue 2nd Jun 2015 | Football Stadiums & Facilities

The 2015 Premier League Kicks Cup not only demonstrated the good work the programme that is funded by the Premier League and Sport England achieves in helping young people find the right path in life. The venue of this year's event also showcased another aspect of how the Premier League's funds can help local communities.

The pavilion at Jeffrey Humble Playing Fields in Fazakerley, Liverpool, where the event was held, was destroyed by an arson attack in 2012, leaving the thousands of youngsters who use the site every week to get changed in temporary facilities.

But thanks to a grant of £649,430 from the Premier League and The FA Facilities Fund, the pavilion was rebuilt, with new changing rooms, officials' rooms, catering facilities; toilets; multi-purpose community hall; a car park and secure fencing. The new facilities was the hub for the 2015 Premier League Kicks Cup with more than 600 teenagers representing 47 clubs.

"When we saw the extent of the damage, it was a real shock," said Gill Bainbridge, chief executive of the Merseyside Youth Association, which runs the site in partnership with Liverpool City Council. "At one point I wondered whether we would have to close the doors and walk away.

"The investment has enabled us not to just to have a football facility but also a community facility that is owned by everybody who lives here. It's a realisation of the vision, and the passion that's gone with that vision, to drag this facility, kicking and screaming into 21st century. I am immensely proud."

The new building at Jeffrey Humble is not designed just for football. It includes a large hall, which will be available for the local community.

"This fantastic space has enabled us to widen our offer out to the local community," Bainbridge said. "A project like this is absolutely vital to showing that the money that is going into football can be used for really positive community investment and for social change.

"For the local community to see money coming into the city, into an area that is one of the more deprived areas in the country, it gives them a sense of pride that they have got a facility as good as this right on their doorstep.

"If the community has ownership, hopefully the amount of vandalism and negative behaviour around the site will decrease. We can only do that with the support of the community. We really hope that this is the beginning for us."

Seeing the redeveloped facility was poignant for one special guest. Barclays Premier League referee Chris Foy officiated at the fields when he was coming through the ranks.

"I have been to many of these events with the Premier League, and it's fantastic," he said. "Everyone has the right, especially in grassroots football, to a warm shower and somewhere to get changed rather than sitting in a car, freezing cold. It puts kids off but this facility doesn't, this attracts kids. They will want to play here because of this."

The Facilities Fund is backed by the Premier League, The FA, and the Government, via Sport England and its investment in the city was welcomed by Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram.

"I played on these pitches for many years," he said. "When we were here, there were six showers and only three of them would work or have hot water.

"It's a fantastic facility now. And the hall inside the building is brilliant, not just for the people who play sports, but also for linking this back with the community.

"A facility like this can act as a catalyst for further regeneration and for that connectivity with the residents out there. The concept of what has happened here is really good, not just for grassroots football but also for the wider regeneration of north Liverpool.

"I'm a strong advocate for grassroots football so it is brilliant to see the Jeffrey Humble playing fields benefiting from this investment from the Premier League and Football Association which hopefully enables the young, talented footballers in the local junior football leagues to develop their skills and reach their full potential."

Posted by: Kev Howland

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