A former England international footballer has officially unveiled a £550,000 artificial grass pitch at a Lincoln school.
Paul Merson, whose illustrious career included 12 successful years at Arsenal, cut the ribbon to open the Priory City of Lincoln Academy’s 3G pitch, which has been used by pupils, local teams and the community since its completion in 2014.
Merson, who is a pundit and match summariser on Sky Sports, also presented trophies to pupils at the end of two football tournaments and held a Q&A session with students and guests.
The all-weather, floodlit facility was made possible thanks to a £250,000 grant awarded by the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund, alongside £300,000 worth of funding from the Priory Federation of Academies Trust.
Merson, who won 21 caps for the national side, scoring three times, said: “I wish I had been able to play on something like this when I was growing up. We need more facilities like this in England if we are going to produce more players for all levels of the game.
“Credit has to go to the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund, the Football Foundation and The Priory Federation of Academies Trust for making this happen.”
The Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund is funded by the Premier League, the FA and the government through Sport England.
It is delivered by the Football Foundation, the country’s largest sports charity.
Since it was launched in 2000, the foundation has provided 211 grants worth £12m towards grassroots sports across the whole of Lincolnshire.
Jane Hopkinson, headteacher at the academy, said: “We were delighted that Paul Merson was as impressed as the rest of the community with what is a wonderful new facility.
“He was brilliant with the students – he must have signed everything in sight and had countless selfies taken. It’s definitely been one of the highlights of the year.”
The 3G pitch is available to students at the school, as well as grassroots teams across the city, including partner clubs Birchwood Colts FC, Hykeham Tigers FC, St Helens FC and Hykeham Town FC.
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “I am delighted that a grant from the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund has enabled The Priory City of Lincoln Academy to complete this project.
“This latest project in Lincoln is the latest addition to the inventory of modern community sports sites we are developing that cater for the needs of local people who want to play sport purely for the love if it and to stay healthy.”