The programme is a grant scheme for non-League clubs in Steps 5–7 of the Pyramid, funded by the FA Cup’s lead sponsor, Budweiser, and will give eight grants of £50,000 to clubs across the country per season over the next two years.
Those grants aim to help clubs to become more financially sustainable by improving their facilities. Projects that could be funded by the grants include everything from building conference facilities, improving any part of the clubhouse interior or exterior, and expanding the car park - anything that helps a club grow and play an even larger role in their local community.
The club received the fantastic news that they had been one of the winners about ten days ago, and AFC Blackpool’s Karen Tebbutt explained the process that they went through to demonstrate why the club would be a worthy recipient of the grant. “We applied for the grant in October and found out we had won at the end of November.
“With the Budweiser grant being offered to clubs that wanted to regenerate their clubhouses and facilities for the benefit of the local community, we had to explain what we wanted the grant for and what it would do for us.
“We wrote that we wanted the grant so that we could renovate the clubhouse, mend the roof from leaking, put in a new suspended ceiling, insulate and put in new lighting to help with energy costs.
“We also explained we would completely strip everything out of the kitchen and main room and rebuild a new bar and a fully fitted functional stainless steel kitchen, put a new entrance porchway and extend both the mens` and ladies toilets.
“This would then enable us to advertise for functions and businesses as well as the local community to come and use the facilities and so the club could generate income to help us be able more sustainable.
“The judging panel informed us that they had been impressed with the way we had shown how every penny we were granted would be used to help us cut down on energy bills, help grow the club with self-generated income and become a place where people would want to come and be welcome.”
The FA and Budweiser are touring the country to announce the eight regional winners, with the second stop on the tour being The Mechanics ground last Friday.
Owen Coyle is the regional Club Futures ambassador for the North West and visited the Mechanics to present AFC Blackpool chairman Tommy Baldwin with their winning cheque and plaque.
The former Burnley and Bolton Wanderers boss said he was delighted to see local youngsters at the club, who will ultimately benefit from the grant.
He said: "It's a fantastic programme that supports grassroots football across the country and I'm delighted and honoured to come along and play a small part.
"It can really elevate a club, because these clubs work so hard in grassroots at what they do and people come in and work tirelessly for the club and the local community.
"These grants can go a long way towards whatever it may be, whether that's upgrading facilities within the club, helping with the pitches or helping with the young kids, which is what we had with kids as young as four here.
"That's so important and like anything, the more you practise, the better you get.
"This money will go a long way to helping them to progress and become a better club."
But the good news for AFC Blackpool may not end there. Within each season, one of the chosen eight winning clubs will be given the chance to win an additional £100,000 super grant –– and Karen is now hoping that the club can benefit even further.
“We have now been put forward for another grant of a further £100,000 in competition with the other seven grant winners,” she said. “This will be down to a public vote and will be organised from votes by football fans through the official FA Cup and Budweiser UK Facebook pages, from the end of January through to the end of February next year.
“In the event of us being successful with this, we would us this money to improve our facilities further, including a new community room, outside toilets and changing facilities for our eleven junior teams.”
Credit: Ian Templeman