Sunderland aims to score for new football pitches through multi-million pound FA Parklife scheme

Sunderland West End in red and white play Redcar Athletic at Ford Quarry in Mary in the Monkwearmouth Cup Final.
Sunderland West End in red and white play Redcar Athletic at Ford Quarry in Mary in the Monkwearmouth Cup Final.
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Millions of pounds is to be invested into the footballing future of Sunderland.

Floodlit 3G pitches could be built at three popular locations as part of the FA Parklife plans to encourage more people to take up the sport.

Councillor Mel Speding.

Councillor Mel Speding.

Sunderland City Council is working alongside the Football Association, Sport England and the Premier League through the Parklife programme in a bid for funding to invest in pitches, facilities and programmes to help people get more involved at a grassroots level.

Officials have been looking at the current playing areas in the city, the number of full size artificial turf pitches and the number of teams including mini soccer, 9v9 and adult sides, which amount to more than 600 squads.

If the funding bid is successful, the scheme would see three new full-sized 3G pitches set up at each of the three sites: Northern Area Playing Fields in Washington, Ford Quarry and Community North Sports Complex in Downhill, which are already used for games.

This list of Q&As have been drawn up by the council for clubs.

This is a fantastic opportunity for Sunderland to have football facilities that will allow people to play in all weathers and we hope this programme will see a growth in the numbers of people playing football.

Councillor Mel Speding

Each site would also see a minimum of six changing rooms set up, a social or refreshment area built and at least 200 car parking spaces provided.

One would also have a commercial health and fitness centre incorporated into the plot, with those locations chosen because they can accommodate the additional buildings and parking.

The new pitches and facilities will be subject to planning applications, but if all goes smoothly, they could be up and running by spring 2019, subject to a further successful funding bid.

A number of clubs will be invited to become “partner clubs” which will ensure they will get 40% of their playing time.

The sporting organisations will pledge 60% of the cash, while the council will find the remaining funds, with the cost of the project still to be finalised, but to amount to millions of pounds of investment.

The sites would then be run by a contractor, with pricing to ensure their use will be affordable for teams, and a trust to be formed to oversee their use.

They would be open every day, with lighting to help make the most of the new pitches as darker nights draw in,

The council’s cabinet secretary, Councillor Mel Speding, said he had seen the benefits and success of the scheme elsewhere in the country, including on a trip to Sheffield.

He said: “This is grassroots funding for football and it’s about giving organisations quality facilities, with three 3G pitches at each site.

“I think this will be a phenomenal investment into the game.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Sunderland to have football facilities that will allow people to play in all weathers and we hope this programme will see a growth in the numbers of people playing football.

Sunderland is the first city in the region to have been successful in its initial bid to the Parklife programme, with the funding to help reduce the pressure on the council’s need to maintain grass pitches and keep the cost of playing the sport down.

Clubs and league secretaries will get letters outlining the plans and will have the chance to find out more at meetings being held on Thursday, August 3.