Ella Toone officially unveiled a pitch named after her, thanks to a £7.6 million investment from the Premier League, The FA and Government’s Football Foundation into new facilities in Wigan.
The Ella Toone Pitch is one of 23 Football Foundation-funded pitches that will be named after each of the Lionesses to honour their UEFA Women’s EUROs victory last summer and inspire the next generation of women and girls to get involved in the beautiful game.
The pitch is part of the new £6.2 million William Fosters Hub in Ince, just a short distance from Ella’s hometown of Tyldesley, and is due to open this summer. The site, which will include a total of two full-size 3G football turf pitches (FTPs) as well as a changing pavilion with a community café and social space, was made possible by a £3.7 million grant from the Football Foundation and £2.5 million in funding from Wigan Council.
Ella Toone said: “It feels just like yesterday that I was a kid kicking a ball around just a few miles from here but already so much has changed in the women’s game. It’s so exciting to see more and more women and girls wanting to play football and the amazing new facilities here will allow them to do just that.
“As a Lioness I feel a responsibility to be a role model for the next generation and it’s such an honour to do that with a pitch named after me in my hometown. I’m so grateful to the Football Foundation for the opportunity to inspire local girls to fall in love with the game just like I did.”
The Lioness legacy pitches form a key part of the Football Foundation’s HERe to Play campaign, which celebrates the charity’s commitment to delivering facilities that provide equal access to women and girls playing football across the country. The campaign launched earlier this year with the opening of the Jill Scott Pitch in Jarrow, named after Ella’s former Lioness teammate.
Robert Sullivan, CEO of the Football Foundation, said: “Ella and the Lionesses are a great showcase of how important quality grassroots facilities are for the women’s game. Many of the UEFA Women’s EUROs squad, including Ella, started their pathway to stardom on facilities funded by the Football Foundation. It’s vital the next generation has access to great places to play.
“Thanks to investment from the Premier League, The FA and Government, the Football Foundation is directing more money than ever into supporting the grassroots game. Every one of the facilities we fund will provide equal access for women and girls. That means providing safe, accessible and inclusive environments for women and girls from their journey to the site right up to their first step onto the pitch.”
Alongside the William Fosters Hub, the Football Foundation has also invested £3.9 million into an additional Hub at Laithwaite Park in Wigan, contributing to a total £12.7 million investment into transforming grassroots sport in the area. The two sites will provide thousands of local children, young people, adults and elderly residents with access to state-of-the-art grassroots sports facilities.
Councillor Nazia Rehman, cabinet member for resources, finance and transformation at Wigan Council, said:
“Ella is a true inspiration and we’re delighted to see a pitch named in her honour. As a host venue for the UEFA Women’s EUROs and also for Manchester United Women, Wigan Borough is very proud of her achievements.
“The two hubs will have a huge impact in our communities and we can’t wait for the opening dates.
“Working alongside our community partners such as Wigan Athletic Community Trust and Lancashire FA, the two sites will help us to harness the power of grassroots sport for the benefit of residents of all ages.”
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: ““We are committed to levelling up access sport which is so important for the nation’s physical and mental health.
“Today we are pleased to announce that more than 1,600 new and improved multi-sports grassroots facilities across England are benefitting from the support of funding through the Government, the Premier League and The FA’s Football Foundation. Every one of these will support, sustain and grow community and grassroots sport – so that physical activity is accessible to all, no matter a person’s background or location.
“We are continuing to celebrate the success of the Lionesses – with the ‘Ella Toone Pitch’ enabling the generation of women and girls inspired by them to get active and involved.”