Gillingham Anchorians Hockey Club celebrated the official opening of its new pitch by launching its ‘Back to Hockey’ campaign for people wanting to try the sport.
Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, the MP for Chatham and Aylesford, along with Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti, cut the ribbon on the club’s all-weather surface at its base in Darland Avenue.
The official opening was also attended by guests including Sport England Chief Executive Jennie Price, board members from England Hockey and representatives from the National Hockey Foundation, Kent Sport and Medway Sport – all organisations which crucially supported this small family club in its huge £210,000 fundraising campaign.
Anchs Chairman Gary Jackson said: “We are truly indebted to the support from club members, former players, sporting organisations and bodies plus the hockey community across Kent and nationally. The pitch opening is a celebration of all our hard work and demonstrates what volunteers can achieve when they work together. We are now looking to the future and how we can continue to offer this great sport, and new friendships, to the Gillingham and Rainham communities for many years to come.”
Sports Minister, and Chatham and Aylesford MP, Tracey Crouch cut the ribbon alongside Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti. She said: “Sports clubs are vital to their local community, bringing people together and helping boost individuals’ physical and mental wellbeing. As well as offering hockey to people of all ages and abilities, Anchs is a really family friendly club and gives Gillingham residents a great opportunity to put something back into their community through coaching, umpiring and volunteering opportunities. I congratulate all involved in the efforts to secure the funding for this fantastic new pitch, that includes investment from the National Lottery via Sport England. I am sure Anchs will go from strength to strength and will bring many more people to the sport.”
Rehman Chishti added: ““It is an honour to be invited to open the new pitch at the Gillingham Anchorians Hockey Club. As the local MP I supported the club’s successful bid for funding and I’m delighted that after all their fundraising and hard work they are now able to benefit from a new all-weather surface.
“It’s a fantastic local club which has continued to provide excellent sporting opportunities at the heart of the local community over the past sixty years and I hope that more people will give hockey a go.”
Four men’s teams, three ladies sides and a thriving junior section of 100 children play at the club which celebrated its 60th season in 2014/15 and achieved national ClubsFirst accreditation last year.
Volunteers worked tirelessly to raise the money for a new pitch to secure the club’s future for the next decade, holding numerous events including a Dawn to Dusk hockey match and 20 half-marathons in one year for Club Captain Richard Brewer.
Anchs also received vital support from other clubs and local schools plus £45,000 of Sport England National Lottery funding and £75,000 from England Hockey and the National Hockey Foundation.
Sport England Chief Executive Jennie Price said: “Sports clubs need a number of things to be successful, including a welcoming environment for members and newcomers, good coaching and great facilities.
“With this National Lottery funding, we’ve been able to help Gillingham Anchorians build an excellent surface that people of all abilities can enjoy. I’m looking forward to seeing the club go from strength to strength, welcoming many more people into hockey.”
Royston Hoggarth, England Hockey Chair added: “England Hockey is delighted to have been able to support the club develop new facilities. This area is a hotbed for hockey and it’s great to see Anchorians growing so rapidly along with so many other clubs around the country where junior club hockey participation has increased by 65% since 2012.”
Anchs welcome new members of all ages and abilities, and are keen to offer hockey to even more people across Gillingham and Rainham by inviting those who are thinking of getting back into the sport – or maybe wanting to try it for the first time – to its special sessions starting at 7.30pm on Monday 9th May.
The club will also be running Family Fun Days throughout the summer for children and adults to have an informal and fun match together. For information on Back to Hockey, summer events and playing next season, go to http://www.gahc.co.uk or our Facebook page https://m.facebook.com/GillinghamAnchoriansBack2Hockey/
For more information about the ‘Back to Hockey’ scheme, please see the England Hockey website.