Will the roar of the Lionesses be amplified by £2 million for new Wirral pitches?
By David Humphreys
28th Jul 2022 | Local News
As the England squad prepares for Sunday's historic Women's Euro final against Germany, almost £2m is to be pumped into providing brand new football pitches at two sites in Wirral with the council hoping for a "Lionesses effect".
Wirral Council has accepted £1.8m from the Football Foundation to upgrade sites at Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre (WTSC) in Birkenhead and Woodchurch Leisure Centre with new 3G pitches. A new changing facility and pavilion will also be installed at Woodchurch.
Nicola Butterworth, Wirral Council's director of neighbourhoods, told the local authority's tourism, communities, culture and leisure committee that the funding was the product of two years' discussion with the Football Foundation and brought about "significant external investment to provide facilities where there are high demands across the borough." David Ball, assistant director special projects, said planning permission for both projects had been awarded last week.
Mr Ball said a little more than £1m had been awarded for the upgrades at Woodchurch, while a further £806,000 would be used to install the pitch at WTSC. As a result, councillors agreed to award a contract worth £859,000 to Lyjon Construction, based in Ellesmere Port, for the development of the facility based within the grounds of Woodchurch Leisure Centre.
The Football Association and Football Foundation targeted Wirral as an area for special consideration, in terms of attracting grant aid towards the development of new artificial grass pitches, according to a council report. This is in direct response to the exponential growth in grassroots junior football over the past few years in all age groups and all abilities across the borough.
The business plan and grant application were submitted in November 2020 and March of this year to the Football Foundation for the two sites as demand throughout Wirral is "extremely high". The council report said: "The borough currently has a shortage of grass and/or artificial grass pitches, with many clubs having to travel outside of Wirral to play and train."
Cllr Tony Smith, Labour Upton ward member, said: "Obviously Woodchurch Leisure Centre being in my ward, I'm absolutely delighted to see the progress that has been made. As someone who used to use the running track in the 1990s, it's been derelict for so long and to see a 3G pitch there and a pavilion there, I think it's one of those things we needed."
Cllr Smith said he hoped the performance of the England women's football team in the European Championships would lead to increased participation on the site in girls. Committee chair Cllr Helen Cameron said football "was part of the culture in this part of the world", and hoped there would be a "Lionesses effect" off the back of the Euros.