‘It’s Gunner be great!’ - Arsenal legend Pires hails new sports pitch in Camden

Former Arsenal and France International midfielder, Robert Pires, returned to north London on Friday (1 November) to officially open Fleet Primary School’s new state-of-the-art, third generation artificial grass pitch.

The new pitch was made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League, The FA and Government's Football Foundation, as well as contributions from Camden Council, the London Marathon Charitable and The Arsenal Foundation in the Community.

After netting a £176,409 grant from the Football Foundation, work began on the site in July 2019. Camden Council also contributed £85,000, whilst the London Marathon Charitable Trust and The Arsenal Foundation pledged £55,000 and £20,000 respectively.

The project was undertaken to upgrade the school’s 20-year-old macadam pitch that had received no investment since its original construction. It has now been replaced by a 44m x 25m floodlit pitch, which also features a spectator area and a community access ramp to support those with disabilities.

The facility is expected to spark a significant rise in participation within the area, with the site having previously been used exclusively by the school. The pitch will now provide a new training base for local partner clubs and community organisations, offering them a safe and clean environment in which to play.

In addition, the site will also be used by Arsenal in the Community to deliver several of their more prominent community schemes, including Premier League Kicks sessions for local youths, curriculum time football sessions for Fleet Primary School and the Camden Centre for Learning (which are both based at the site) and a weekend league for local grassroots teams.

Don McGibbon, Headteacher of Fleet Primary School, said: “We are very excited by this development. The children have loved using the pitch since it opened and we want to say a huge thanks to the funders who made this possible - The Football Foundation, London Marathon Trust, The Arsenal Foundation and Camden Council as well as the people who worked so hard, over many years, to take an idea to improve our facilities to the point we're at today with a delivered project transforming our school site. We are delighted that not just the children of Fleet and the Camden Centre for Learning will be benefiting from this state-of-the art facility during the school day, but also that many local football clubs that historically have struggled to find affordable facilities in the area to promote sport, health and fitness will have a new home too. Hopefully the football stars of the future will be learning their skills on our pitch.”

I am very excited about the opening of Fleet Primary School’s new state-of-the-art football pitch and how it will benefit the community and its young people. Now both the school’s students and children in the surrounding area will have the chance to get involved and play football on a fantastic facility – and, who knows, perhaps follow in the footsteps of Robert Pires? Grassroots sports are vital to our community - they ensure children and young people remain active and healthy, as well as offering them the opportunity to play in a team with other young people and, most importantly, have a really great time.
Councillor Jonathan Simpson, Cabinet Member for Promoting Culture and Communities

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “Grassroots sport plays an important role in communities across the UK, creating opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. That is why I am delighted that Fleet Primary School has now opened their state-of-the-art 3G pitch in Camden, thanks to investment from the Football Foundation. Continuing to improve access to high-quality facilities like this one is a key aim for the Premier League, The FA and the Government. Delivered by the Football Foundation, their funding supports projects for clubs and organisations all over the country and is helping to boost the number of people benefiting from sport through better facilities.

"Grassroots football provides so many benefits for members of the community, not least of which is the opportunity to enjoy themselves. Love for our national game, something that can be found across the country, is an integral part of what drives the Foundation and its Funding Partners to keep increasing the standards and quality of our facilities.”

Background information:

  • Founded in 2000, the Football Foundation is the largest sports charity in the UK funded by the Premier League, The FA and Government, via Sport England. It develops new and refurbished grassroots sports facilities in order to improve the quality and experience of playing sport at the grassroots level.
  • Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded over 17,164 grants worth more than £682m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of £863m – totalling over £1.5bn of investment into the grassroots game.
  • By providing more high-quality facilities, coupled with coaching at the appropriate age group, the Football Foundation aims to improve the experience for regular players as well as attracting new players to the game. Many of the new state-of-the-art facilities will serve to strengthen the connection between professional football clubs and their local communities, particularly in the most deprived areas of the country, through the professional clubs’ community trusts’ outreach work.