Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, joined The Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Cllr. Anne Murphy, to officially open the St George’s Park Westfield sports hub at the Isobel Bowler Sports Ground recently.
It is named after the much-loved local Councillor, Isobel Bowler, who passed away in 2016. The sports ground that now bears her name is in the ward she represented, Mosborough. Her mother, Sarah, was present at the official unveiling.
A £4.38m grant from the Parklife Football Hubs Programme enabled Sheffield City Council to install two brand new third generation (3G) artificial grass pitches (AGP), perform improvement works on the site’s four existing grass pitches and develop a state-of-the-art new sports hub which, in total, cost £7m to build.
The new hub – the third of its kind in Sheffield after St George’s Park Graves, in Norton, and St George’s Park Thorncliffe, in High Green, opened – cements the city as a hotbed of football.
The state-of-the-art building boasts six team changing rooms; officials’ changing rooms; an accessible changing room; a coach education room; a kitchen and bar; a reception and office; a first-aid room and spectator toilets. On the second floor is a further two changing rooms, another accessible changing room and a fitness suite.
The new pitches will benefit partner clubs Beighton Magpies FC, Mosborough FC and Sheffield Utd Ladies. Previously, these clubs had to travel to a number of sites across the city to accommodate their training needs. Now, they are able to use the new hub as their home venue. Additionally, the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA will deliver ‘Just Play’ sessions, aimed at 16-19-year-olds, and plan to establish a new FA Elevens League. The facility will become an Ability Counts League venue, as well as being used for FA Disability Talent Identification Programme sessions.
It is expected that the partner clubs will introduce 13 new teams, taking their collective total from 21 to 34. This supports an expected increase in football participation onsite of 492%. Improving football provision for girls is also a key objective, and the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA have assigned a Women and Girls’ Officer to deliver skills sessions at the site. Additionally, the pitches will be used as a Girls Regional Talent Centre, which will support the formation of new Under-10, Under-12, Under-14 and Under-16 girls’ teams.
Parklife – a five-year commitment to build many multi-pitch hubs across towns and cities in England – creates sustainable community football hubs across the country raising playing standards and opportunities for all. The £200m programme receives investment from The FA alongside the Government, Premier League and local partners. It is delivered nationally by the Football Foundation.
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 15,000 grants worth more than £580m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £800m – £1.4bn of investment into the grassroots game.
Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, said: “It was a huge honour to officially open this new Parklife hub, which joins the two sites at Graves and Thorncliffe respectively as major assets to our community. Grassroots sport is vital to this area, and facilities such as this one are at the forefront of improving the standard of grassroots provision that we offer in this country.
“The Parklife programme, which is funded by The FA, Government, Premier League and local partners, and is being delivered by the Football Foundation, should be praised for the impact it is having on grassroots football.”
Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure, said: “Sheffield is known as the birthplace of football and the Parklife hubs that have opened here will ensure the city can continue this sporting tradition. I am honoured to see that St George’s Park Westfield is situated in a sports ground that has been named after my good friend and colleague, Isobel Bowler, who passed away last year.
“Isobel was the Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure and she led the council’s partnership with The FA to develop the Parklife hubs in the city. Having the sports ground named after Isobel is a fitting tribute and her legacy will continue, and she would hope, like me, it will encourage and inspire people in Sheffield to play football and keep active.”
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “I am delighted that this Parklife-funded football hub at the Isobel Bowler Sports Ground is now open. It is a shining example of the work that is being carried out across the country by the Football Foundation to revitalise the game at the lowest levels.
“Using funding that comes from the very top of the game – from the Premier League and The FA – as well as the Government, this new, state-of-the-art football facility will not only improve the experience of those who already play the game, simply for the love of doing so, but should also help to encourage even more local people to get active by taking up the national game.”