ONE of the largest football clubs in the borough has plans to transform its facilities into a "world class hub" and meet the growing demand of its teams.

Forming around 20 years ago, Newton-le-Willows FC has grown to cater for hundreds of young footballers who represent the club across 40 different teams, including Men and Women Open Age teams in the Cheshire District League and an impressive 12 girls teams across various age groups.

However, as many of their teams still play on school and council pitches, there is an understanding that investment is necessary to meet the growing demand and upgrade the club's facilities.

An asset transfer of the King George playing fields from St Helens Council would allow the club to apply for various funding streams, but frustration has risen as this process has been talked about for years without any significant action.

Exciting proposals at the club

Warrington Guardian: The club has been praised for its expanding girls teamsThe club has been praised for its expanding girls teams (Image: Newton-le-Willows FC)
Gaining control of the Wharf Road playing fields would allow Newton to apply for grants in excess of a million pounds from the FA and Football Foundation, and there is excitement surrounding initial proposals at the club.

As well as an investment in the King George playing fields, funding could also be used to create a 3G training pitch, changing rooms, showers, toilets, an extended car park, a cafe and club shop.

Club leaders believe this will create a world-class facility for the benefit of their teams and the wider community, while the FA described the club's five-year development plan as an "example of best practice".

St Helens Council and Newton-le-Willows councillors are said to be supportive of the club's vision to expand, but there has been growing frustration as talks about an asset transfer began around four years ago.

While there have been inevitable delays due to the pandemic, amateur clubs in other areas have successfully gained grant funding, with the Football Foundation supporting two multi-million-pound facilities in Wigan, for example.

'Our vision is to make a world class hub'

Warrington Guardian: An asset transfer could result in 3G pitch, changing rooms, cafe and club shopAn asset transfer could result in 3G pitch, changing rooms, cafe and club shop (Image: Newton-le-Willows FC)
Speaking about the potential asset transfer and future of the club, Newton-le-Willows chairman Andy Tither said: "For a number of years, Newton-le-Willows FC has been liaising with St Helens Council over the possibility of an asset transfer of King George V playing fields on Wharf Road.

"Our vision is to make better use of the space by making a world-class hub for junior football. In addition to the investment in pitches, we want to include a 3G pitch, changing rooms, showers, toilets, extended car park, café and club shop.

"As one of the largest clubs in the league, the reality is we do not have enough facilities to cater for the demand.

"Whilst we are grateful to local schools and council facilities that allow us to play and train, we hold the ambition of one day having our own facility.

"Despite the facility challenges, we have committed our intent to grow the game particularly in the area of female football to the FA.

"We recently submitted our five year development plan with this facility being pivotal to support that growth. The FA described our plan as an ‘example of best practice’ and they are fully behind our ambitions.

"St Helens Council also share this vision with us and have been working with us in conjunction with Liverpool County FA and the Football Foundation. In particular, Cllrs Banks and Gomez-Aspron have been advocates for the project, and have been advising us accordingly and arranging meetings with other key stakeholders – we are grateful for their continued support.

"Whilst we are frustrated of not being at a more advanced stage, the Trustees understand that there is a process to go through; we however look forward to working with all the key stakeholders involved to bring this to our community at the earliest opportunity."

Council commit to four asset transfers a year

Warrington Guardian: The club boasts 40 teams from under 7s to Open AgeThe club boasts 40 teams from under 7s to Open Age (Image: Newton-le-Willows FC)
A St Helens spokesperson added: "In September 2023, the council adopted a new Community Asset Transfer Policy that will help unlock new community led projects and the aim is to focus on up to four community asset transfers a year. For organisations wishing to consider this opportunity the policy can be read on our website here

"This applies to any organisation wishing to explore current or future opportunities at King George V Playing Fields in Newton-le-Willows. The council is also developing a new Open Space Strategy that is scheduled for adoption in Summer 2024 which will inform decisions as to which sites are suitable for asset transfer."