0 New Pitches to attract young

Millions of pounds is to be spent to transform football pitches to encourage young sporting stars.

Experts say too many young people in Leicester are missing out on playing the beautiful game because of run-down and worn out pitches.

Now the city council is teaming up with the Football Foundation, the Football Association, and grassroots clubs to send the city back to the top of the league in a £12.6 million plan.

City councillor Andy Connelly, cabinet member for leisure, said: "This will totally upgrade nearly all the pitches in the city. It's a major investment.

"The participation figures at the moment are really disappointing, particularly in respect of young people. We're way behind.

"We need to do what we can to improve these facilities - it's important that young people participate in sport from the point of view of exercise, and also giving them something to do."

The council's plans come after a study by the Leicestershire and Rutland Football Association showed fewer than one in 10 boys in the city play organised football - half the national average.

Among girls, the picture is even worse, with only one in every 250 taking part. They also said standard of pitches was not good enough.

The council now aims to double its number of pitches from 30 to 60 and increase the number of teams from 96 to more than 200.

Eight changing room blocks would also be built along with more artificial pitches and ball courts, plus new staff would be hired.

Dilip Chouhan, co-ordinator at Leicester Nirvana - where Leicester City star Levi Porter was spotted when he was a schoolboy - said the club had been battling for years to get better football facilities.

The club is based at Spinney Hill Park and would benefit from new pitches in Hamilton if the plans go ahead.

He said: "This is an opportunity for clubs like ours. I'm glad that the investment is coming into the city."

The biggest project is a £2.5million scheme at Aylestone Playing Fields where the number of pitches would increase from three to 17 and a 10-room changing block built.

Dennis Roe, assistant secretary of the Alliance League, an adults' Sunday morning league, said it was desperately needed.

He said: "The Alliance League believes that the decline in adult football is partly due to the lack of provision within the city."

The project is supported by Leicester City Football Club who will offer the support of their coaches and trainers.

The Football Foundation has agreed to fund 50 per cent of the £455,000 design and development costs of the plans.

The council hopes to fund more than half the £12.6 million total costs, putting about £4 million into the project from its own coffers and money from the sale of land to developers.

Money will also have to be brought in from outside.

See article on Leicester Mercury Web site New Pitches to attract young

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