One of the biggest challenges grassroots football faces is providing quality places for eager young players to play.
But, in Carmarthenshire, an exciting collaboration between a mini-league, a school and a Welsh Premier League club has created a model that could be replicated elsewhere, especially with around £4m of Sport Wales funding becoming available for facilities projects in 2019.
Carmarthen Mini League say they reached out to the community when they grew to 126 teams, which could no longer all be hosted all at one venue.
Now, thanks to Carmarthen Town and Ysgol Maes y Gwendraeth, the league’s U8, U9, U10 and U11 teams now play on high-quality 3G surfaces, every Saturday morning throughout the season, whatever the weather.
Chairman Kieran Davies said: “In the past bad weather would have forced us to call games off if the water was holding on the astroturf.
“Now we play all of our games on 3G and it really is all-weather.”
Ysgol Maes y Gwendraeth PE teacher Warren Leech says FAW Trust support allowed the league to purchase additional goalposts, so that the facility could be maximised in terms of the number of matches played, which are also utilised by the school.
He said: “It’s increased participation within our curriculum and extra curriculum. “The mini league using the facility on Saturdays has generated a new income for the school as well, which we can use to improve our facilities.
“We try to embrace the community and we try to encourage them. It’s a long-term development plan and hopefully those youngsters will come into school and progress from there to their local clubs.”
“It’s a great experience for the children because they get to play on a professional ground. It’s also great for the parents because there’s a stand to sit in and tea and coffee facilities.”
Carmarthen Town FC chairman Chris Edwards says he hopes the mini-league using their Richmond Park ground on Saturday mornings will benefit the town’s children for years to come.
He said: “It’s important to show the community that we are open to them and our facilities are available for everybody.”
FAW Trust West Wales Football Development Manager Aled Lewis said: “The mini-league, club and school working together has led to an increase in players’ weekly playing time on high quality surfaces, and a consistency throughout the season knowing that fixtures won’t be postponed due to bad weather.
“It also has a positive impact on the school and club. Both facilities were previously unused on Saturday mornings, so the income generated and engagement with the local community will help to support other school and club activities.
“Their support and collaboration has helped us to establish a successful facility usage model that will benefit football in the area for a number of years.”FIND OUT MORE ABOUT FOOTBALL FACILITIES IN WALES