Scores of Sunderland jobs to be supported with creation of £18 million football hub scheme

Work to transform sports fields into football centres fit for champions will net Sunderland an economic victory.

By Fiona Thompson
Tuesday, 29 January, 2019, 14:16

Construction has been launched as part of the £18.04 million Football Hubs programme, transforming Community North Sports Complex at Downhill, Ford Quarry and The Northern Area Playing Fields in Washington into centres fit for generations of players to come.

Esh Construction, which is leading the building work, says the programme will support around 50 existing jobs, with the County Durham firm's involvement to see £3 put in to the Wearside economy for each £1 spent on the scheme.

In turn, once complete the centres will offer further opportunities for business, including pitch-side cafes for players, officials and families and friends going to watch games.

Pavilions, including one at Downhill which will see the existing building revamped and extended to feature a gym,and those at Ford and Washington demolished and rebuilt, will also feature space for social gatherings, as well as new changing rooms and other facilities.

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Once complete the Football Foundation project, which is the first in the region and fourth in the country, will see the creation of 10 Full Size third generation (3G) artificial grass football pitches (AGPs) with four existing grass pitches to be upgraded - one at Northern Area and three at Downhill.The £18.04m project is being funded by the Premier League, The FA, the Government, the Football Foundation, Sport England and Sunderland City Council.

Paul Redman, divisional director for Esh, said: "I'm a resident of Sunderland, I was born here and have lived here all my life, and played football for the best part of 40 years, and it's nice to see money being invested in the city.

"These health facilities and young players are important and the investment from the Football Foundation will give people employment and as a local company, that's really important."

Council leader Councillor Graeme Miller said: "What this means for the city is that it shows the residents that we have a massive commitment to delivering a real 21st century sports offer.

"We've got the backing of the Premier League, Sport England, Football Foundation and the FA to the benefit of £18.04 million for these 10 3G pitches, which is a big investment."Each of the hubs will be operated by Pulse Soccer, which already runs the Sheffield and Liverpool Football Hubs.It is anticipated that all three hubs will become operational this year, enabling football to be played across the sites in the 2019/20 football season.