Having netted 76 goals in 235 games for Southampton, James Beattie, is well aware of how dearly people regard football within the Hampshire area.
And Beattie was able to pass on some of his years of experience to girls at Swanmore College of Technology, as he led a coaching session to celebrate the opening of the of their new state-of-the-art third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP).
The new 3G pitch was made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League, The FA and Government's Football Foundation, for which Beattie has been an ambassador of since 2015.
After netting a £138,553 grant from the Football Foundation, work begun on the site in September 2019 to resurface their existing small-sided sand-based AGP that was no longer fit-for-purpose, prone to waterlogging and was hampering the growth of its partner clubs.
The grant enabled Swanmore College, to develop a new 3G pitch that compliments their existing full-size 3G pitch, which is already at capacity, and provides a facility that can be used throughout the week, regardless of the weather.
The new pitch will have a particularly positive impact on its primary users, Waltham Wolves FC and Bishop Waltham Dynamos FC, who will now have a more reliable space to offer regular training facilities to throughout the week.
It is anticipated that Waltham Wolves and Bishop Waltham Dynamos will be able to increase their number of youth teams from 15 to 23, and from 13 to 21, respectively, whilst also providing a training venue for Winchester Flyers Women and Girls FC Mini-Soccer and youth leagues.
James Beattie, said: “I’ve been working alongside the Football Foundation for a few years now and the plans they have to transform grassroots football in this country is extremely exciting.
“You only have to look at people’s faces when you come to opening events like these to see how much playing football means and with all the plans to build more all-weather pitches like this, and also develop thousands of grass pitches, it’s going to make a huge difference.
“Having spoken to so many people today and witnessed the passion people have for the sport here, it’s definitely got the makings of another Football Foundation success story.”
Kyle Jonathan, Headteacher at Swanmore College, said: “We would like to thank the Premier League, the FA and Sport England for supporting this project through the Football Foundation, this refurbishment will benefit our pupils and help to improve grassroots sport in the area through our community programme.”
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “Grassroots sport plays an important role in communities across the UK, creating opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. That is why I am delighted that Swanmore College has now opened their state-of-the-art 3G in Hampshire, thanks to investment from the Football Foundation.
“Continuing to improve access to high-quality facilities like this one is a key aim for the Premier League, The FA and the Government. Delivered by the Football Foundation, their funding supports projects for clubs and organisations all over the country and is helping to boost the number of people benefiting from sport through better facilities.
“Grassroots football provides so many benefits for members of the community, not least of which is the opportunity to enjoy themselves. Love for our national game, something that can be found across the country, is an integral part of what drives the Foundation and its Funding Partners to keep increasing the standards and quality of our facilities.”