- U12 teams from all 20 Premier League clubs are in Ypres this weekend competing in the Christmas Truce National Tournamen
- Opening of the pitch being gifted to the city of Ypres at Friday 14 November at 17:00 CET by Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore
- Full educational and cultural weekend for the players as they visit war cemeteries and lay wreaths on behalf of their clubs at the Menin Gate Last Post ceremony
- Poet and BBC presenter Ian McMillan to make a new Christmas Truce poem based on the boys experience of the weekend
- Getty link to Friday photography: http://mm.gettyimages.com/mm/nicePath/gyisports?nav=pr252573848
To commemorate the centenary of one of the most unique acts in war history – the 1914 Christmas Truce football matches – the Premier League is today opening a third-generation artificial turf pitch that it is gifting to the Belgian city of Ypres.
To mark the opening of the facility the Premier League has brought over U12 football teams from all 20 of its clubs to compete in the Christmas Truce National Tournament.
The two teams that reach the final shall return to Ypres on 13-14 December 2014 to play in the Christmas Truce International Tournament, where they will play against football sides that 100 years ago were at war with each other. Teams from Germany, France, Belgium, Austria and Scotland will take part.
The Premier League has held a Christmas Truce International Tournament in Ypres since 2011 and has built such a special bond with the Flanders city that in December 2013 it committed to building a floodlit third-generation pitch on KVK Westhoek’s Crack Stadion facility.
The new ‘Christmas Truce Pitch’ is being officially opened on Friday November 14 by Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore and Jan Durnez,the Mayor of Ypres.
The Premier League Communities strategy includes a major focus on investing in Facilities and Grassroots. The Premier League has invested over £208m in facilities via the Football Foundation to date, with 493 Artificial Grass Pitches built so far. An ongoing funding partnership with the FA and Government via Sport England will see 152 new pitches built over the current three year agreement.
Richard Scudamore, said: “The Christmas Truce Pitch is not only an appropriate commemoration of the centenary of the First World War, it is also a unique opportunity to build a lasting sporting and cultural experience beyond 2014.
“Bringing club and community together is a model all Premier League clubs deliver and we are pleased to be playing our part in creating a community asset for the people of Ypres. The history here tells us that football has a fantastic ability to unite and break down barriers. This pitch will allow young people from all across Europe the chance to do that, linking what happened in Ypres during the First World War to their education.”
The tournament and the pitch launch are part of ‘Football Remembers’, a collaboration between the Premier League, The FA, the Football League and the British Council, with the aim of engaging football fans about what took place on Christmas Day 1914 in Flanders, Belgium.
The pitch will be collaboratively used by the city of Ypres and its football team, as well as the Premier League. Local schools and community groups in the city of Ypres will use the pitch on weekdays, while on evenings and weekends it will be used by the various clubs of KVK Westhoek, who are currently in the Belgian fourth division. The city is responsible for the continual upkeep of the facility.
The Premier League will remain connected to the facility as it has use of it for a number of weeks a year. Not only will this mean that Christmas Truce Tournament will continue to take place in Ypres, but it will also be shared by teams from English and Welsh schools, the community and youth development teams belonging to Premier League clubs.
The League also aims for the facility to be available to other relevant football and sporting organisations throughout Europe to come and enjoy it in a spirit of peace and reconciliation, especially for young people visiting the First World War battlefields.
The Christmas Truce National Tournament has two elements that are at the heart of the Premier League’s youth development programme, playing elite football against high quality opposition and education.
As the players are trying to qualify for a larger tournament it is introducing them to the idea of competition. It is also the only tournament at this stage of their development where all 20 Premier League clubs will compete against each other in one weekend. [For full details of the educational and cultural activities over the weekend see Notes to Editors.]
Plans for the 3G pitch started in December 2013 when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the League, the City and the football club. Local contractors Lano Sports were tasked with the build.
Work started on it after the Belgian football season ended in May 2014. The first job was to clear the site and install drainage. The third-generation grass pitch was laid during July. Then in August – to make sure it was ready for the new season – the fixtures and fittings of the goals, corner flags, dug outs and perimeter fencing were installed. KVK Westhoek have since then been testing that the facility is in full working order.
Notes to Editors
Media contact in Ypres: Phil Dorward – Head of PR, +44 (0)7795 562739,email@example.com.
Educational and cultural activity taking place in Ypres
This weekend the teams are split into four groups. Groups A and B play football on Friday and Groups C and D take part in an education day. On Saturday the groups switch over and on the Sunday the Tournament enters its knockout and finals stage.
For the education day there are five buses (two teams on each bus) taking the boys to four sites:
- Langemarck German Military Cemetery – An opportunity to look at the background to the First World War from a German view and the impact it had on their country.
- Dochy Farm New British Cemetery – The role of sport and the Great War here in the telling of the story of Jimmy Speirs, who captained Bradford City in the 1911 FA Cup Final and whose body is buried at this cemetery.
- The Old Cheese Factory – Players visit to a Recruitment Stand with an opportunity for the team to handle equipment and weaponry and to dress in Great War uniform.
- Tyne Cot CWGC -A visit to the largest War Cemetery in the world. A chance to look at the impact of the war and for a period of silent reflection.
At least three clubs are making individual visits to the graves of players/soldiers that were part of their club – Leicester City, Sunderland and Hull City.
On Friday evening at 20:00 all of the players and their coaching staff will attend the nightly Menin Gate Last Post Ceremony. One boy from every club, along with Richard Scudamore on behalf of the Premier League, will lay a wreath as a mark of respect to the 54,896 British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient in World War One and whose graves are unknown. One boy will have the honour of saying the ‘Ode of Remembrance’.
The players are also taking part in some unique cultural activity. Five poets from the Poetry Society will accompany the schoolboy footballers over the weekend and do workshops with them. The collated thoughts of the boys will be passed to poet and BBC presenter, Ian McMillan, who has been commissioned to write a new poem about the Christmas Truce. This poem will be read first at a Football Remembers Parliamentary Reception on Tuesday December 9.
On the Saturday evening the players will attend a one-man theatre show about the Christmas Truce called ‘Our Friend the Enemy’. Additionally 38 of the boys who are attending this weekend took part in the re-recording of The Farm song ‘All Together Now’ song. They were the backing choir along with 22 German boys for the single that will be released on Monday December 15.