In pictures: Uttlesford's new 3G pitch is declared officially open!
- Credit: Saffron Photo
The new 3G pitch for Uttlesford has been officially opened - by Spurs legend and Argentina star and World Cup winner Ossie Ardiles.
And an estimated 500 people helped to celebrate the moment, which came after 10 years of sustained effort, including lobbying, fundraising and grants to pay around £1.1m for the facility.
The difficult geography meant a retaining wall was needed for the site at Saffron Walden County High School and also a car park.
The project's success was massively boosted by £817,000 from the Football Foundation, the funding body of the FA and Premier League, and £150,000 from Uttlesford District Council.
The remaining fundraising was at community level. And community businesses and organisations also stepped forward.
There were significant donations from Saffron Building Society (£10,000), Saffron Walden Round Table (£5,000), UPS (£4,500) and Croucher Needham (£6,000) and firms also showed support by paying for advertising spaces around the pitch.
Construction started in early April and was finished at the end of August.
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There are now around 800 young players including 550 boys in SWCFC and 250 girls at SWPSGFC.
SWCFC Club Secretary Matt Clare said: “The opening event was better than anyone could have hoped for.
"It has been a long road, but the sight of 200 children running on to the pitch to kick footballs when Ossie Ardiles cut the ribbon was just perfect.
"It reminded us all why we persevered when it might have been easier to give up on the whole idea of a 3G pitch.
"But it also showed us what we have missed so much over the last 18 months of the pandemic – children having fun, playing outside, with their friends, and getting some exercise.”
Councillor Alex Armstrong said: "Uttlesford District Council were delighted to support the SWCFC and the opening of the first 3G pitch in the district.
"This grant unlocked funding from the Football Foundation including Essex FA, the overall budget was over £1million.
"It was great to meet Ozzie Ardiles a World Cup hero, and the youngsters were lining up for selfies and penalties.
"This community facility will be the blueprint for other projects in Uttlesford. Special congratulations to Matt Clare and Caroline Derbyshire and all their support staff."
The pitch is now in full use and had its first “evening” session on Monday – it was described as “fabulous”, “a game changer” and “out of this world” – by the children who used it.
There are Soccability sessions every Saturday – pan disability football for children – and they hope to roll this out for adults too. They also aim to add “Walking Football” soon and a six-a-side league starting soon.
Spurs are holding weekly training sessions and holiday camps for children on the 3G.
The pavilion is shared with the school and with the kind co-operation of Saffron Walden Cricket Club.