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Funding deadline approaches for Sport England pitch grants

03 July 2013

  • Extra £5million awarded for pitch development
  • Playing Field Fund offers more support for RU clubs
Excavation work for a new rugby pitch

Photo: RFU Archive

Rugby union clubs across the country have more access to funding to improve their pitches than ever before after Sport England announced a 50 per cent increase in its Protecting Playing Fields fund, but there is no time to lose if they are hoping to be included in the next batch of awards.

The next round of funding closes on August 5, 2013, with Sport England looking to support projects that will create, improve and protect playing fields by reviving disused fields, improving existing sites through leveling, drainage and reseeding, purchasing new land and also buying existing playing field land where there is a threat to continued use.

National Lottery support has produced a £5 million increase in the funding pot available to help clubs acquire and improve their pitches, with a record number of bids being received for the most recent tranche of awards. Rugby union clubs were well represented, with 20 rugby pitch projects being supported by a total investment of £982,000 as part of 75 awards that collectively received £3.5 million.

Among the projects benefiting in the last round of funding was Skipton Rugby Football Club in North Yorkshire. Excess flood waters from the nearby River Aire has long been an issue for sports fields at the Sandylands complex and after a season when waterlogging saw dozens of matches and training sessions cancelled, the club will now be able to spend £50,000 on a new drainage system, which will mean rain will no longer stop play.

Mel Mason, President of Skipton Rugby Football Club, said: “This project will make a significant contribution to address the long-standing drainage issues at the club and address the issues identified in the Craven Council’s Playing Pitch Strategy.

“These are dedicated funds that will be used specifically for draining the training pitch, but it will mean that we have improved training facilities without having to look for resources from other areas in the club. We are hopeful that the improved facilities can be used for other recreational purposes, especially looking towards the Tour de France next year, to generate income for the club.”

Over the four rounds of funding, 721 pitches and nearly 2,600 acres have been protected and improved, with Skipton among a group of eight RU clubs that were able to draw down the maximum grant available under the scheme during the most recent round.

Examples of grant awards in the most recent list of beneficiaries include pitch drainage and improvements at Berkswell & Balsall RFC, Sidmouth RFC, Nuneaton Old Edwardians RFC, Leek RUFC, Skipton RFC, Old Bedians RUFC Kirkby Lonsdale RUFC, Trafford MV RFCC and Moortown RUFC and land acquisition at Trowbridge RFC, Market Bosworth RFC, Scunthorpe RUFC and Chester RUFC.

At least £3 million of National Lottery funding will be invested in the fifth round, with bids accepted via Sport England’s website between June 10 and August 5, so the opportunity for RU clubs to take advantage of a chance to provide their members and visitors with improved playing facilities has never been better.

“It is great to see so many rugby clubs looking to improve, and in some cases expand, their pitches by taking advantage of the excellent programme being offered by Sport England and the National Lottery,” said Ross Baxter, RFU Facilities Investment Manager.

“Well maintained pitches are key to improving the playing and training experience for players. They are also vital in ensuring regular matches, which are integral to a club’s income, particularly when clubs face winters like last season. Any club who has identified that they need help with their pitches should contact their local RFU Area Facility Manager so we can continue our support towards funding for pitch improvements.”

Help for rugby clubs is available from their local RFU Area Facilities Manager:

Area 1 (Cornwall, Somerset, Devon, Dorset & Wilts Gloucestershire): Jon Bendle on 07753 881 272 or

Area 2 (Middlesex, Hamsphire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Hertfordshire): Jason Bowers on 07703 466 773 or

Area 3 (Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Essex): Rick Bruin on 07738 029 211 or

Area 4 (Notts, Lincs & Derbyshire, Eastern Counties, Leicestershire, East Midlands, Warwickshire): Peter Shaw on 07734 070 674 or

Area 5 (Lancashire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, North Midlands): Tom Bartram on 07734 070 674 or

Area 6 (Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Cumbria): Alex Bowden on 07764 336 701 or