THE chairman of the Football Association has lavished praise on AFC Sudbury’s youth facilities.
David Bernstein, who visited The MEL Group Stadium on Saturday morning, said the set-up at Sudbury is as good as he has seen at step four level anywhere in the country.
The FA chief was at King’s Marsh to see the Grassroots Community Pavilion and the clubhouse, both opened just over a year ago, as part of a tour of football in Suffolk that also saw him take in Ipswich Town’s match with Leeds United.
Following a 45-minute visit to Sudbury, Bernstein told the Suffolk Free Press: “I have been incredibly impressed. I think the facilities are absolutely fantastic, having the main Sudbury team alongside the youth side all on one site is fantastic.
“I think the quality of the facilities that have been put together really are as good as I have seen anywhere at this level and I have been really, really impressed.
“I think the whole community nature of what has been done, and working with schools and people with disabilities and so on, and everything I have heard, I am really impressed with and I am delighted to have been here.”
Bernstein, who was appointed chairman of the FA in January, succeeding Lord Triesman, was shown the work AFC have done, building up their youth set-up to 19 teams involving 300 young people in three years, by Sudbury chief executive Mark Pearman. And the FA chief was delighted with what he saw, and believes the work that clubs such as AFC are doing could have wider benefits.
“When you see what is happening in wider society the need to get young people into organised sport, particularly football, which has such a resonance in this country, is increasingly important,” he said.
“One of the issues I am seeing as I go around the country is the use of facilities and at least here you are seeing fantastic facilities and we should really encourage people to use them and I commend the volunteers greatly.”
Bernstein also urged people to go out and watch their local clubs on Non-League Day on Saturday, with Premiership and Championship sides not in action due to England playing Bulgaria on Friday evening.
He said: “I would encourage people in Suffolk and the rest of the country.
“I have been going around the country looking at football at this level and the more I see the more impressed I am and I think it is a fantastic product.
“It is low cost, it is safe, it is inclusive, it is great for the kids, they can come on the pitch afterwards and kick a ball about. I would greatly encourage families and young people to come to it.”
Bernstein. accompanied by Suffolk FA chairman Mick Pearce, Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey and regional manager of the FA Heather Moir, also spent Saturday watching and speaking to disability and Down’s Syndrome footballers in Ipswich as well as Suffolk referees at the Ipswich Town-based academy.