Ten months after the St Helier facility reopened to the public following a £600,000 renovation, Brian Oliver remains ‘delighted’ with its popularity, and with 1,000 people a week now using the artificial surface for training and matches – a 5,100 per cent increase on pre-upgrade figures – preliminary targets have been met, and easily surpassed.
Grass pitch (pre-2015): 50 matches, 1,000 players a year.
Artificial pitch: 250 matches a year, 1,000 players a week.
‘When we put together our football development programme we projected that 1,000 would be the figure we were looking at by the end of the second year, so we’re obviously really delighted to have that number of users by the end of Year One,’ said Oliver.
‘What we wanted to do was provide a facility that was going to be used by as many people as possible in the community, and I think we’ve done that. Schools are now beginning to make more use of it, and on top of that there is a considerable amount of recreational use, with a number of people booking it just for a kick-around.’
Oliver continued: ‘Springfield previously held 50 games a year, but for this season it’s projected there’ll be 250 games played, from men’s 11 v 11 down to primary schools playing seven v seven.
‘We’re expecting 1,000 a week right through until March-April time. During the summer there will probably be some gaps, but we’re working to try and fill some of those gaps with holiday courses and coaching courses too.
‘And in all of this is the fact that football is never called off. We’re not having to move fixtures around, and our coaching sessions for the Centre of Excellence always go ahead. By now we would usually have lost 25 to 30 per cent of our sessions because of bad weather.
‘The Football Foundation and the FA are delighted with the returns they’ve got from their investment in terms of usage. We recognise we can’t please everybody and accept that some people would rather play high-profile games on a grass pitch, but on the back of the returns we have got it’s difficult to say it’s not been a real success.’