On Wednesday morning this week I met with Greg Dyke the Chairman of the Football Association, to discuss his new report on investment in grassroots sport in England. In particular he is calling for more investment in all weather artificial pitches and for councils who no longer wish to maintain local sporting facilities to transfer them over to community ownership. I agree with these recommendations. There is no doubt that excellent community facilities are the foundation of future success for the national teams and encourage more people of all ages and abilities to actively participate in sport. We have seen that locally with the new Three Hills Sports Centre in Folkestone and the huge success of junior football at clubs like Hawkinge. Folkestone will soon benefit from a 3G artificial grass football pitch at the Cheriton Road sports ground, and I hope we will see more of these built across east Kent.
Investment from the government, the FA and the Premier League goes directly into new sporting facilities and clubs can also apply directly to the Football Foundation for support. This week the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund Small Grants Scheme opened applications for grants of up to £10,000 to refurbish and improve existing sports facilities. You can find out more about the fund through the Football Foundation website www.footballfoundation.org.uk . The FA has also been running skills workshops in our area after school at the Three Hills sports centre and in local primary schools. I recently visited one of these skills coaching sessions in action at the Churchill school in Hawkinge and it was great to see all of the pupils involved and having fun. You can find out more about the FA’s work in Kent supporting local football through their website www.kentfa.com
The Shepway Sports Trust has recently been established by the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust to promote participation in sport across the district. In particular, the Trust is working to improve links between schools and local clubs to encourage more young people to take part in sport in the evenings and weekends. Many local sports clubs; covering rugby, cricket, hockey, boxing, tennis as well as football; have a great tradition of working with youngsters from the age of 5 up, and it is important that all families are aware of the opportunities that are out there, and how to access them. If you would be interested in finding out more about this, you can look the trust up at www.shepwaysportstrust.org
I have recently met as well with Keith Hollidge from the Folkestone martial arts club who has exciting plans in place to create a new permanent home for members to train in Cheriton High Street. This would make for an excellent sports facility within easy reach for many people in the town. I would like to wish him well for the success of his proposals. Please let me know as well if you are involved in a local sports club that is looking for support to improve its facilities and to encourage more people to take part. There is often funding available through different sports organisations and local trusts, as well as from the government and local councils.