A thriving Harrogate community football club is getting in great shape on and off the pitch with the help of a four-figure grant from a property and energy firm.

Pannal Ash Junior Football Club has around 500 players aged between four and 18 on its books, a number which includes more than 100 local girls who have signed up to play in the last few years.

The club’s under-fives to under 11s teams plays dozens of weekend matches on its eight pitches at the Almsford Playing Fields, which need regular maintenance and drainage work to ensure they remain in a playable condition during the winter months.

A £5,000 grant from The Banks Group’s Banks Community Fund has now enabled the club to buy a new sit-on roller mower, which means it will now take much less time to look after the pitches and will allow the club will save thousands of pounds a year by having its team of volunteers and committee members do the work instead of an outside contractor.

Founded in 1978, Pannal Ash Junior Football Club draws its members from right across the local area, with its activities supported by a team of parent volunteers and coaches.

The club tries to keep membership fees and match subs as low as possible to ensure it is accessible to anyone who wants to play, with membership numbers growing significantly over the last three years as a result.

It has also recently begun to share its facilities with the Harrogate Montpelier Petanque Club, who now meet regularly at the Almsford Playing Fields during the week.

Dr Kathryn Scott, fundraising lead at Pannal Ash Junior Football Club says: “Keeping our playing surfaces in playable condition has always been a challenge for us as the clay-based soil that we have doesn’t allow water to drain away easily and we’ve regularly lost fixtures during the wetter months due to waterlogging.

“The new machine means that the pitches can easily be cut, rolled, spiked and drained as required and it will allow us to get things done far more quickly than would otherwise be possible.

“Giving our volunteers the equipment they need to carry out all of our groundwork will mean that the club will be fully financial sustainable for the first time in a decade and it will also help us to keep the cost of playing for the club as low as we can, which is essential if we want to give everyone that wants to the chance to play here.

“We wouldn’t never have had enough money in the bank to make this purchase without the Banks Group’s generous support, which will make a real difference to the facilities we can offer local young footballers for many years to come.”

Lewis Stokes, senior community relations manager at The Banks Group, adds: “As a developer that is investing in a number of property and renewable energy projects in Yorkshire, we’re actively supporting a wide range of projects in the communities across the county that host our developments through our community fund.

“Pannal Ash Junior Football Club’s impact on local young people goes far beyond the matches they play.  It helps them learn the value of teamwork, discipline and physical fitness, and we’re very pleased to be able to help them bring in this much-needed equipment.”

Anyone interested in applying for funding from the Banks Community Fund should first contact the fund manager via fundmanager@bankscommunityfund.org.uk or on 0191 378 6342 before applying for a grant to check if their group or project is eligible.

“Giving our volunteers the equipment they need to carry out all of our groundswork will mean that the club will be fully financial sustainable for the first time in a decade”