A new report has been produced tying together several large, mainly football orientated, projects together that could see £20m invested in Wrexham – as well as growing grassroots football in the area from an already impressive starting point.
The jazzy report due before executive board members next week covers a wide range of topics, from grass roots facilities, a new training ground for Wrexham AFC, the new ‘Gateway’ project on Mold Road, a probable new football museum. It also goes as far as tying it all in to the ‘Visitor Experience’ of Wrexham as a place.
The council call it a ‘visionary document’, and say it has been shared and approved by the FAW Trust, Wrexham AFC and Wrexham Glyndwr University.
The report gives impressive stats to the local position of grassroots football compared to the rest of North Wales: “There are more than double the number of football participants in Wrexham than any other Local Authority in North Wales including over 3,300 adults and over 4,500 young people playing in over 53 senior and junior football clubs.
“The opportunity to build on this passion for football and to maximise football to develop all aspects of Wrexham as a community has brought a range of partners together to develop a number of projects.”
The key projects and their ‘outlines’ will be no surprise to regular readers of Wrexham.com, however there are some new nuggets, along with the overall objectives being codified for the first time.
Chief executive of Wrexham Council, Ian Bancroft, explained: “This document has the logos of FAW on, the football club and Wrexham Glyndwr University, this is something that we’ve done in partnership.
“The point of it is we are showing these are not one off projects associated with football, we have a vision and a strategy for how all these projects link together.”
Mr Bancroft added that ‘a whole series of reports’ revolving around the individual projects will emerge, and the new report is just stage in the ‘journey’.
Council Leader Mark Pritchard described the report as “fantastic news for Wrexham, and obviously North Wales”.
With a focus on the local communities of Wrexham Cllr Pritchard said: “Our aspirations are to have a 3G pitch in every secondary school, that is the bluntness of it. The important thing is the 3G pitches are open even when the school closes so the community can use them and the local clubs can use them.”
“If we can end up with one in every secondary school that will be fantastic. We have one we are funding through the consequentials, which will be in Bryn Offa”.
Cllr Pritchard assured us any end user costs for using the new 3G pitches would be ‘sensible’ to ensure they are accessible to all.
Cllr David A Bithell, deputy leader of Wrexham Council, acknowledged the importance of the range of projects in the document, however noted the multi million pound investment by the FAW in Colliers Park.
He said: On the back of that we have been working as a local steering group made up of elected members, myself included, working with the North East Wales Football Association, in partnership with the FA, about creating better community engagement with youth, seniors, girls teams, making sure that we have development plans, looking at how we manage our football pitches, creating professional advice, working with disabled people to participate in sports and groups.
“We have got two football hubs which currently up and running, the north and the south hub. We’re looking at a third hub.
“We have our money on the back of these creation of hubs, one of them which was Solway Banks, which is nearly complete, and then the other one was Ponciau changing facilities, both of them were in the region of about £200,000.
“They have required some match funding and the community councils, landfill taxes, and other groups have contributed towards the creation of these hubs.
“So when you look at it in total, I think that this is a marvellous story really for Wrexham, a result by working in partnership with the FAW over a short period of time.
“By the great relationship that we’ve got with them, we have had Colliers Park, we’ve got about £400,000 pounds worth of investment into council facilities, it’s still working. And on top of that, we’ve got an extra £200,000 going into Ysgol Clywedog as well.
“It is over £6 million pound that’s come to Wrexham in our partnership.”
Mr Bancroft saw future investments totalling a far greater figure: “I would anticipate we could potentially get over £20 million in in the future associated with these projects as well. That’s how significant this is in terms of generating funding and investment around these key projects.
“The other thing the document bears out is clearly it’s not just about football, the facts on the economy, the effect on tourism, the effects on football for the town centre are all really really, really critical.
“Football is at the heart of this, it’s at the heart of Wrexham, but it has much more impact than just from a football perspective.”
Although plans exist they are not contained in this overview report. However there is detail on what can be expected at any new Wrexham AFC training centre on part of the former Groves site. As we have reported previously there is plans for a 150 year lease between the council and the football club for the site, as the current year by year agreement to use the 9-Acre field is set to end as the council says: “In order to allow the site to be used to meet an educational need in the future’, although with a later caveat that it would be ‘subject to planning’.
The new document notes that the club itself will be investing in creating two new training pitches together with ancillary facilities including changing facilities, car parking, irrigation system, and new services.
The community benefit ownership model of the club is noted as a positive for residents of Wrexham, and that by splitting the site “The council can go out for expressions of interest for alternative uses of the listed Groves building”, a process we understand is underway.
Such a move is noted with “…. further scope to expand the relationship between the Local Education authority, the Football Club and the Racecourse Community Foundation to inspire difficult to reach youngsters through football.”
The redeveloped Colliers Park is listed as having the potential to host a women’s Welsh Premier League team, along side benefiting Wrexham as a whole by raising ‘the profile of Wrexham, playing host to teams and players from all over the UK and abroad’.
Women’s football is seen as the biggest single opportunity to grow participation within the game. The report states the FAW Trust will work together with the Racecourse Community Foundation and Wrexham County Borough Council to develop a specific women’s and girls’ strategy.
The long term aim is identified as doubling the reach, and the ‘….emerging sport will be transformed and embedded alongside men’s football in the heart and mind as our nation’s favourite game’.
Community clubs in Wrexham will and are having ‘expert consultants’ to help develop club plans, with an output that clubs will ‘review their governance structure, financial situation, facilities, teams and volunteer structure and be supported to achieve FAW accreditation’.
The report refers to community clubs having their ‘own home facilities’ defined as pitches and club houses, ‘with access to 3G’ with ‘vibrant school partnerships’.
As well as on-pitch players the report says the FAW Trust is working in partnership with the schools in Wrexham to start developing the future football related workforce, including future coaches, teachers, officials, administrators, managers, marketing, financial management, business development and legal guidance services to help deliver more and better football activities on and off the pitch. Colliers Park will become a ‘hub’ to a workforce academy.
The report explains: ” The outcomes of this approach will provide football with more and different volunteers provide students with practical experience within the sports industry, while in turn supporting clubs to become more business-like and financially sustainable.”
Earlier this year the Gateway project was fleshed out a little, with talk of a new 5000 seater stand on the Kop at the Racecourse Stadium along with a hotel and retail mentioned in the same breath.
The new report does not venture that far from previous reports, however the Mold Road gateway will ‘provides a sense of arrival’ to give a positive impression of Wrexham to visitors.
Speaking about the Gateway project Mr Bancroft said: “Since the announcement of our joint vision we’ve been following up and finishing the feasibility work.
“So the next step will be to bring the final feasibility study to the Executive Board. So that will give you some of the answers to the questions that I think you’ve asked before. ‘Is this feasible?’ ‘How’s it going to work?’ In terms of that work, there’s still a really positive relationship between the partners and progress is being made. So all of that is positive and good.”
The formal green light for a new multi million pound ‘National Football Museum Wales’ in Wrexham is yet to be given, however the report talks of the project in glowing terms with a covering ‘assuming the Welsh Government give the new museum the go ahead’ warning.
Despite that, there are quite precise details of what the new mean ‘will include’, “….fun and interactive galleries featuring amongst other things the story of the 1958 World Cup when Wales got through to the quarter final only to be knocked out by Brazil and the 2016 European Championships when an inspired Wales led by Chris Coleman got through to the semi-finals.”
Talking about the museum Mr Bancroft said, “It is reaffirming the right place for that museum is in the museum, and Wrexham football club are agreed with that in terms of their views.
“We are at the stage of progressing detailed design work on that now, so it is past feasibility study.
“So that that work in terms of progressing up to detail design will then be brought back once we have those final designs for how that museum will look.
The Wales vs Trinidad & Tobago international football match in March this year, plus several large music gigs at the stadium are cited as the reason there is “a new confidence amongst both the community, Wrexham AFC and the local authority and other stakeholders that both the stadium and surrounding infrastructure are capable of welcoming large 10,000+ crowds for a single event”.
Despite the expected positivity from such a report there is a noticeable gap in the list of events that took place in 2018 and historically, with Wrexham losing the huge Wales Comic Con event earlier this year.
The event drew tens of thousands of people multiple times a year to Wrexham from all over the globe with A-lister celebrities attending.
At the time there was criticism that more was not done to retain or engage with such a large event, that had been on the calendar of the town for over a decade, and appears the exact type of event the area wishes to attract.
The report will be formally presented to the council’s Executive Board on Tuesday, where will likely be approved along with instructing the council to “…to support the ongoing partnership work across a number of football related projects to develop Wrexham as the spiritual home of Welsh football.”
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