Chris Evans reports…
WICKFORD TOWN OPEN UPGRADED BARTLETT PARK
New Facilities Unveiled by Mark Francois MP
Wickford Town FC’s brand new Bartlett Park facility will “help the club achieve sustainability” according to Essex County FA Chief Executive Brendan Walshe, who attended the grand opening on Saturday 23rd June.
Mark Francois, MP for Wickford and Rayleigh, officially opened the state-of-the-art new changing rooms as Town look to become one of the largest youth football clubs in Essex. Their new facility was made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.
The grant enabled Wickford to double the number of team changing rooms, which will enable them to significantly boost their football provision throughout the community. The upgraded facility now comprises four team changing rooms, two changing rooms for match officials and increased access to male and female toilets.
A key improvement, however, is the upgraded club room complete with kitchen and servery area, which will help to increase the club’s long-term sustainability. This will mean they can stage more club events as well as coach and referee education courses.
The club hope the new facility will help them unearth more gems from their youth sides, which have already helped to produce Brentford goalkeeper Daniel Bentley and former Southend United Manager Steve Tilson. The new site will also assist Wickford who play in the Southend & District Junior League, to forge stronger local community links.
President John Bartlett, who has had numerous roles within the club since it was founded in 1969, is delighted with the new provision. Town were awarded a £397,764 grant towards the project, working alongside the Football Foundation and the Essex County FA to compile a five-year Development Plan, which is a vision with an emphasis on increasing sports participation.
The new facility will support the club in hopes of almost doubling their number of youth football sides, as they aim to draw in a further 20 teams thanks to their improved provision. This would take their total from 37 to 61, a move which would increase overall participation by 154%.
With a focus on retaining young players and backfilling their existing teams through all age groups, a 100% increase in football participation for those in the 14-25 age bracket is predicted. Wickford also plan to establish four new girls’ teams and a ladies side, in addition to the two ladies sides they currently run.
County FA Chief Executive Walshe commented: “This application has evolved over the last 24 months and a lot of work has gone into it. This included a variety of support to access additional funding, develop the applications and business plan, the operating model and a football development plan for the site.”
“The opening ceremony was a real showcase event for the club, demonstrating the journey they have been on over the last three or four years, plus it also acted as recognition of what it has been achieved during that period. It had a real community atmosphere, with players, parents, volunteers, coaches, managers, friends and family all in attendance to celebrate the work of the club.”
“Wickford Town FC are in an excellent position to achieve more things in the future at this excellent facility, which will help the club achieve sustainability. The site has enormous potential for future expansion, with land at its disposal to help meet the growing football development needs of the Wickford and the wider surrounding community.”
Clive Lodge, Chairman of Wickford Town YFC, added: “I would like to thank Mark Francois MP for opening our new facility. Additionally we would like to thank Brendan Walshe and the Essex County FA for their continual support over the last few years in making this happen. The club have received support from funding providers and years of fundraising from club members.”