The Groundsman

May 2012

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36 FEATURE the Groundsman May 2012 New game plan to attract community cash The installation of a 3G pitch has transformed the opportunities for a higher education college to attract local community football and offer a business resource for its sports academy students North Hertfordshire College's new 3G pitch has a MS PRO 60 surface North Hertfordshire College in Hitchin is one of a new breed of further and higher education sites that has recognised the long-term gains of investing in sport and, as a result, is achieving exceptional results. The college decided to redevelop its sports department nearly ten years ago, creating a football academy - with links to Watford FC - and becoming more deeply involved with the community. And such has been the success of the venture that the college committed funds for the installation of a new synthetic pitch to allow it to better cater for intensive footballing needs, offer a high-calibre facility for students and supply a genuinely long-term revenue stream via community use. Spearheading the project was Gordon Barr, the college's assistant principal, who has been at the helm of the renaissance of sport at the site since he joined a decade ago. In his time there, the sports department has swelled from 60 to 250 full-time students, while the tally of part- timers has rocketed from zero to over 1,000 students in seven years, with many taking coaching qualifications in football, rugby and netball. "Thirteen years ago, I was a professional footballer with Stevenage FC," he says. "Now I'm assistant principal with a diverse portfolio, which includes leading higher education, catering, public services, travel and sport. It's not the traditional career path for an ex-player," he admits. "I'd always had an interest in education and thought I could have an impact somewhere, so I progressed through the ranks at the college, starting off as a staff member of the sports department, moving up to head of sport and eventually to where I am now." In 2002, the college was awarded status as a Centre of Vocational Excellence,

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