Over the past 4 or 5 years, 3G and 4G synthetic surfaces have become commonplace in professional sports and it’s quickly becoming an expectation of grassroots communities that they feel they should have access to this type of surface too. With this in mind, schools have begun to seize upon this demand and are altering their out-of-date facilities such as astro-turf, concrete, rubber and even grass.
Improving your facilities and investing in a state-of-the-art artificial pitch comes with significant initial cost, but it could be a revenue driver for your school for years to come. Plus, there are grants and funds you can dip into that might lessen the initial investment required. In this guide, we'll take you through some of the benefits of installing an artificial pitch, the impact it could have on your revenue and where to start when looking for financial support to get the project off the ground.
Benefits of installing an artificial sports pitch in your school
- School sporting standards improve with a quality surface and facilities
- Parents now look at a synthetic pitch as a benefit when choosing a school for their child
- It will consistently earn revenue year-round unlike any other surface
- Floodlights can extend revenue earning opportunities within the local community, allowing you to rent them out for longer hours during the colder months
- It can be used for most sports including rugby, hockey and football and even tennis
- Grass pitches take time, effort, expertise and money to maintain. You'll significantly reduce maintenance costs in the long-term by switching to an artificial pitch
This investment doesn’t come cheap but there are options to make it happen if you are committed and determined. The return on investment will make it all worthwhile. Just to give an idea on that return on investment, full-size pitches are traditionally hired in thirds with 7-a-side goals on each end (6 in total). Each one of those pitches is hired for an hour at a time for approximately £30. When the facility is up and running, fully-booked (which it will most probably be) from 5pm to 10pm each weekday this can bring in £450 per day and a possible £2,250 per week. This is without having agreements with local football teams to use the pitch for weekend matches at £100 per match (2hrs each game, 2x Saturday & 2x Sunday) to add £400 extra to the weekly pot.
Given its popularity, football is likely to be your main revenue driver, but it's far from your only option. When football is out of season, look to sports like hockey, netball and tennis for further revenue opportunities.
Raising funds for an artificial sports pitch
There is no getting away from the costs of an artificial pitch. The cost is coming down all the time (some 5 years ago they might have set you back £500,000), but you're still looking at a six-figure sum. Still, you aren't out on your own. There are funding options out there to help break the back of that cost, and there are other funding options out there for raising more money. Here are just a few:
- Sport England: Check out their Community Asset Fund, which offers grants of between £10,000-£150,000 for clubs and community groups that want to open places and spaces for physical activity.
- The Football Foundation offers grants of up to £500,000 for a project and is supported by the Premier League, FA, and the Government. Since 2000, they have provided over 60,000 grants worth more than £800 million. The grants cover everything from goalposts, changing rooms, fencing, and 3D pitches.
- School Sport and Activity Action Plan: Announced in February 2021, £10.1 million of government money is being pumped into a new fund to boost post-pandemic sport. The fund won't help you to fund the facilities themselves, but it will help you maximise the use of those facilities once they are built. Using this fund could be a fast track option to boosting revenue from your new artificial sports pitch once it is complete.
- Cash4Clubs: Created in 2008, Cash4Clubs is a sports funding scheme giving clubs a unique chance to apply for grants to improve facilities, purchase new equipment, gain coaching qualifications, and invest in the sustainability of their club.
Even if you do secure some grant money, it's likely you'll need to raise a significant amount off your own back. Crowdfunding through your school and network is an option, using the benefits to the local community as your in with potential donators. There are plenty of fundraising platforms that are ideal for crowdfunding this type of project, such as Crowdfunder or JustGiving. Thankfully, we have all the guidance you need to get started with raising money online through crowdfunding or other means:
- Crowdfunding for school fundraising: The complete guide
- Raise money for schools online: 15 simple virtual fundraising ideas
Tips for getting your project off the ground
- Start out by contacting schools that have installed artificial pitches and find out whether it’s the right move for you. Ask them how they achieved it and what benefits they have seen so far.
- Go multisport. A football pitch is the obvious choice, but there are lots of communities clubs and leagues out there looking for top facilities. Cover more bases and consider rugby, hockey, netball and tennis.
- If you feel your school doesn’t have space for a full size pitch, you should consider a smaller field which can still yield a huge return on investment. A 7-a-side pitch will still be used by local sports teams wanting to host training sessions for 20-25 players. You can even organise evening pay-to-play football leagues and the school will still obviously benefit for PE lessons and as a general play area. Aside from heavy snow, the surface will always be playable.