All you need to know about Sunderland’s new 3G football pitch plans

Wearside League Football action between Sunderland West End  - in red and white - v Darlington 1883 Reserves, played at Ford Quarry last September.
Wearside League Football action between Sunderland West End - in red and white - v Darlington 1883 Reserves, played at Ford Quarry last September.
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Sunderland is to get nine new 3G football pitches across three locations thanks to the Parklife programme.

The city council has been working with the Football Association, Sport England and the Football Foundation to firm up the plans, which will see millions of pounds invested into facilities in Washington, Downhill and Ford Quarry.

Read more: Sunderland to score new football pitches after winning multi-million pound FA funding bid

Here, the council answers 40 queries it knows those behind the 600-plus teams across the area which could benefit will be asking.

1) What is the Parklife Hub Programme?

Parklife is a national programme, supported by the FA, Sport England and the Premier League, is designed to offer an alternative and sustainable solution to the long term future for grass roots football.

This is especially relevant at a time when local authorities are under significant financial pressure to rationalise playing stock while maintaining existing levels of football participation.

2) How and why was Sunderland chosen?

Sunderland City Council with support from strategic partners submitted an expression of interest to be considered for the programme in December 2016.

The FA and the funding partners provided feedback in April 2017 and informed us that we are one of the eight local authorities to be progressing onto stage two of the programme.

3)Are there any other operational Parklife Hubs in the country?

A pilot hub programme was delivered in Sheffield in 2016. Following Sheffield, similar pathfinders are being implemented in Liverpool and London.

It is anticipated that these hubs will be operational from 2018.

Sunderland is the next wave in the Parklife national rollout.

4) Are there other Parklife Programmes in the North East?

At this time, Sunderland is the only current programme progressing in the North East.

5) Does this mean that all football in the city will now be played on 3G pitches?

No. In addition a number of grass pitches will remain across the city.

6) How many Football Hubs will there be and where will they be located?

There will be a total of three football hub sites located at Community North Sports Complex, Ford Quarry and Northern Area Playing Fields.

7) Why have these three sites been chosen?

The FA in partnership with the council has reviewed a number of strategic sites across the city and concluded that these the particular sites are most suited in order to deliver the requirements of the funding partners.

The three sites have been identified as the most suitable to host the necessary infrastructure required.

8) What will each hub site consist of?

Each site will see considerable improvements for users.

The FA stipulated early in the process that each hub site would be expected to accommodate a minimum of three full-sized floodlit 3G pitches, a changing pavilion with a minimum of six changing rooms, a social/refreshment area and car parking to accommodate at least 200 cars.

One of the hub sites ill also have a commercial health and fitness offer incorporated on site.

9) Will the newly developed 3G pitches be of a standard to play competitive fixtures?

Yes. Each pitch will be verified by The FA and added to the 3G pitch register, a requirement for affiliated games to be played.

10) Will the hubs be able to accommodate Wearside and Northern League fixtures?

There is an expectation that some hub sites will be designed to incorporate provision for the initial playing of step 7 football (Wearside League).

The site layout will be flexible to allow expansion should user’s progress onto Step 5 or 6 (Northern League).

For this to happen additional funding would need to be sourced.

11) When will work commence?

Subject to planning approval and a successful funding application it is envisaged that work will commence in spring 2018.

12) When will the hubs be operational?

It is envisaged that all 3 hubs will be constructed simultaneously and open in spring 2019.

13) Who will be the primary users of the sites?

As part of the Funding Partners investment strategy, there is an aspiration to transfer 50% of mini soccer and 9v9 football onto 3G surfaces.

Of the overall playing schedule for each 3G pitch, 40% of playing time will be reserved for partner clubs.

The remaining 60% will be available for all other teams to liaise with the operator to utilise.

14) How do clubs become a partner club?

A process will be undertaken to identify suitable partner clubs based on a selection criteria set by Sunderland City Council and Durham County FA.

There is no obligation for any club to use the facilities should they wish to make alternative or continue with current private arrangements.

The council will however aim to significantly decrease its playing stock once the hubs become operational as a result of The Parklife Programme.

15) When will partner clubs be identified?

Work to identify partner clubs has begun with monthly updates reported into the Sunderland Parklife Board.

Clubs will be notified of the next steps once this process is complete towards the end of 2017.

16) Can clubs do anything in the short term to enhance their chances of being a partner club?

Clubs will be identified using up to date information supplied by Durham FA.

Clubs can contact the County FA to ensure that all charter standard accreditations and any football development plans are up to date.

Please contact Durham County FA on (0191) 3872928 or email

17) Who will identify the partner clubs?

The council will work alongside Durham FA, The FA and the Football Foundation as per the requirement of the programme.

18) Will the partner clubs be allocated first choice of playing times?

Once identified, partner clubs will in the first instance liaise with the operator to determine usage and sign up to a commitment to honour the usage requested.

19) Can a club choose which hub they would like to be considered for?

Yes. Clubs can request which hub they would have a preference being a partner club on.

20) Will other sports and/or groups share the hub sites?

Yes. While recognising that this is a football led programme, there is an opportunity for additional sports and groups to become involved as users of each facility.

21) Can there be more than 1 partner club?

Yes. As an example Sheffield has a hub with three partner clubs.

22) Will there be off peak/daytime partners, who will they be and how will they be identified?

Discussions are yet to take place with daytime users however the hubs will be operational during traditional off peak hours so there will be ample opportunity for the sites to be utilised.

23) What level of consultation will take place with residents and teams?

Members of the Sunderland Parklife Board have identified the following public groups to liaise with throughout the process.

• Leagues

• Junior Clubs

• Adult Clubs

• Partner Clubs (once determined)

• Residents

• Neighbouring organisations

The frequency, level and method of consultation will vary from group to group however a monthly designated Sunderland Parklife Programme Progress Page will be hosted at

Durham FA will also host a link to this page.

Detailed consultation will take place with residents as part of the planning process.

24) Did clubs/leagues have the opportunity to apply for Parklife funding?

No, clubs were not eligible to apply directly for Parklife funding.

The programme sets out that clubs would become partner clubs or block booking/casual users of the sites.

The Parklife Programme funding is for local authorities only.

25) What will happen to the teams currently playing at one of the three hub sites whilst the hubs are being built?

Any teams who are currently playing from one of the sites will be accommodated on a pitch as close to the required playing level or geographical location as possible.

This process will begin following the conclusion of the 2017/18 football season where the typical allocations procedure will take place in collaboration with league secretaries.

26) Who will operate the hubs?

A commercial operator will be procured to operate all 3 hubs and be responsible for delivery of the aims and objectives of the Parklife Programme.

The hubs will be the responsibility of the operator, operating under the direction of The Sunderland Football Trust.

27) What is the Football Trust?

The Sunderland Football Trust will be established and bound by Articles of Association to be agreed with the FA.

The trust will oversee the monitoring and evaluation of the appointed operator.

The board members will include Sunderland City Council, The FA, Durham FA, Sunderland AFC and The Foundation of Light.

There may also be additional community representation.

28) Why is there a need to engage an operator to manage and maintain the sites?

It is an essential selection criteria set by the national funding partners that every football hub will be operated and managed by a competitively appointed operator.

This criteria is non-negotiable for the council.

29) Who is funding the Parklife Programme in Sunderland?

Sixty per cent of the overall programme funding will see contributions from The FA, The Premier League and the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).

The remaining 40% will be contributed by Sunderland City Council.

30) Will the proposals lead to any surplus grass playing pitch provision across the City?

The effect of these proposals will mean there will be a number of surplus grass football pitches.

However, the Council is liaising with Sport England and the other playing pitch national governing bodies i.e. cricket, hockey and rugby to ensure that the current Playing Pitch Strategy ensures enough facilities for each sport.

Any pitches not falling under the obligation of hub sites may be available to be leased to clubs.

Any information on this will be distributed accordingly in time.

31) Will other clubs or organisations be able to apply for Football Foundation funding to support a club moving onto a surplus site?

Clubs are free to contact Durham FA in the usual way to discuss facility aspirations in the first instance.

The Football Foundation have however indicated that once the Parklife hubs re operational in the city, no funding requests for 3G pitches will be processed until the impact of Parklife has been measured.

32) What will be the opening hours?

Exact opening times are to be confirmed however they will be operational to accommodate daytime users through to the evening.

It is envisaged that the majority of mid-week usage will essentially be occupied by clubs using the hubs as training facilities.

Kick off times will be staggered at weekends to avoid large volumes of users arriving on site at any one given time.

For example Sheffield operates Monday to Sunday 9am to 10pm.

33) How much will it cost to play/train?

Costs are yet to be confirmed however the hub sites objectives are to ensure that they are accessible for users yet priced accordingly to be sustainable.

Note the pricing policy will take into consideration current price points for pitch fees.

34) Who will set the prices?

The Sunderland Football Trust will work with the operator to ensure pricing structures are agreed and adhered to.

35) Will all prices be the same across all three hubs?

Yes. The cost of play from each hub will be consistent.

36) How will the operator prevent anyone accessing the sites?

Each hub will have one entry and exit point via the pavilion building.

A turnstile system will be in place at each reception area.

The perimeter of the hubs will be fenced along with additional typical high fencing would to go around individual 3G pitches.

37) Will extra car parking be provided?

Yes. Each hub is expected to accommodate a minimum of 200 car parking spaces.

A minimum of 250 spaces will be required for the hub identified to host a health and fitness offer.

38) Will the hubs be available to host social occasions/club nights in addition to playing opportunities?

Yes. Once clubs have playing agreements in place with the operator, the detail of hosting club nights can be discussed.

39) Why are floodlights required and what about light pollution?

Floodlighting is required to provide greater flexibility with kick-off times and to provide a more flexible offer.

The floodlights will only be directed to illuminate the playing areas of the three 3G football pitches.

40) How will you liaise with residents once the hubs become operational?

Sunderland City Council wants to work in partnership with players, clubs, governing bodies, neighbourhood teams, police and local people to ensure that the opportunities the investment brings are maximised.

The FA and Operator will ensure that ALL teams playing at the site sign a ‘Code of Conduct’ agreement including;

○ Acting as good neighbours within the communities in which the game is played.

○ Consideration for residents and others by using dedicated parking facilities where they are provided.

o All individuals to park considerately and responsibly.

In addition, Sunderland City Council will:

o Help clubs play their part in encouraging the best standards of behaviour across the game by lending support to initiatives such as the Respect Agenda

o Continue to promote, invest in and support football in Sunderland

o Ensure that the incoming Operator will be considerate of local people and address any issues raised by our partners and stakeholders.