ILKLEY'S MP and a former Bradford City star helped kick off the use of Ilkley's new all-weather pitch.

Ilkley Town’s new grass and all weather pitches were officially unveiled by Keighley and Ilkley MP John Grogan and former Bantams star John Hendrie on Sunday.

The club, based at Ben Rhydding Sports Club, Coutances Way, Ilkley, had its new pitches funded through a grant from the Premier League and The Football Association (FA) Facilities Fund.

The grant has enabled the club to install a state-of-the-art third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch and reconfigure their existing grass pitches. The new playing surface can be used all-year-round, even in bad weather, giving the club improved flexibility when it comes to scheduling matches and training.

Mr Grogan said: “It’s always a pleasure to see investment in grassroots sport for our area, and Ilkley Town FC’s new all-weather pitch is a great example of this. I’d like to thank the club for inviting me to officially unveil their facilities, and congratulate them for their efforts in securing funding for the project and bringing this to fruition.

“The Premier League, The FA and the Government, via Sport England are working well together to support grassroots sport. Their funding, delivered by the Football Foundation, is hard at work developing facilities like this one across the country. It is important that a good proportion of the TV money which football enjoys is seen to assist the development of the next generation of players in clubs up and down the land. The funding is also helping to create new jobs and encourage more people to get active, benefitting whole communities.”

John Hendrie, said: “I’m really pleased to help unveil this new pitch for Ilkley Town FC, and my thanks go to the club for inviting me to do so. Ilkley Town FC is an integral part of the community here, and it’s great that more local people now have access to a state-of-the-art facility. The club worked hard to get funding from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, and I’d like to thank the Fund for their support of grassroots football.”

Simon Armstrong, Ilkley Town FC facility manager, said: “We’re incredibly thankful Mr Grogan and Mr Hendrie could open our outstanding community facility. The club, as a whole, did an incredible job of raising the funds in such a short space of time and with the assistance of the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund we’ve been able to deliver a unique sporting experience in Ilkley.

“The 3G pitch is already having a huge impact with Ilkley Grammar School use during the day, all Ilkley teams training at the same site and an average four to five club fixtures being played every weekend on the new surface. Community Partners Burley Trojans FC and West Riding FA are constantly feeding back on the quality of the surface and set up we now have.”

Paul Thorogood, chief executive of the Football Foundation, said: “The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund provides the investment necessary to improve grassroots football facilities. So, I am delighted to see Ilkley Town FC join thousands of local clubs who have reaped its benefit, in this case through the opening of their new 3G AGP and improved grass pitches. I’d like to thank John Grogan MP and John Hendrie for officially unveiling the club’s facilities.

“These facilities are more than places to play football at, these facilities are hubs of physical activity, the bedrock of local communities and ‘homes from home’ for so many who also use them as social outlets to learn new skills, gain work experience and other qualifications.”

Ilkley Town FC were awarded a £376,613 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the project. The club worked alongside the Football Foundation and the West Riding FA to compile a five-year Football Development Plan, which is a vision of how sport will be played on site with an emphasis on increasing participation.

The club plans to introduce a further eight teams to its roster, taking their total to 32. In combination with usage from Burley Trojans FC and Ilkley Grammar School, it is expected that overall sports participation will increase by 77 per cent for the site.

Increasing girls’ football participation is an important objective for the club. They have appointed a Football Development Officer to liaise with the County FA and local primary schools, as well as to hold recreational sessions, in support of this. As a result, it is expected that on-site female football participation across all ages will rise by 66 per cent.