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Ambassadors FC announce new home at Brownlow Leisure Centre pitches

"We've been going nearly 20 years now, so it's great that we finally found ourselves a home!"

Photo credit: Paul Wharton

A County Armagh Football Club has announced they will be taking up residence at the old Brownlow Leisure Centre pitches in Craigavon following a successful Community Ownership Fund application.

At the end of April, Ambassadors FC NI agreed a 21-year lease on the pitches with ABC Council.

In a post on social media, the club revealed that their bid for funding through the UK Government has been successful and they will receive a total of £165,000 for capital and revenue support for the project.

The post explained: “We plan to regenerate these pitches for our outreach programmes and for the benefit of local schools, sports clubs/leagues and the local community. Thanks to everyone who has helped us get this far.”

The former leisure centre was closed in July 2020, coinciding with the opening of the new £35million South lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon.

The arrival of Ambassadors at the football pitches is set to breathe some much-needed life into an area that has been derelict for a number of years.

Ambassadors FC is a football club with a Christian ethos, with their work consisting of church programmes, camps and playing and coaching tours. They are part of a global organisation based in 30 different countries with the aim being to use football to share the Gospel.

Ambassadors has had a presence in Northern Ireland since 2003 and has a number of different teams, with the men’s team starting in 2006 and the youth team starting in 2015.

When the first team started out, they trained at an all-weather pitch in Drumgor, before moving to Brownlow and training at the leisure centre, eventually moving on to a 3G pitch.

Currently, the first team play out of Ashgrove Park in Markethill.

The youth team, which is based in Richhill, is one of the fasting growing youth academies in the area with over 250 girls and boys attending weekly.

Stewart Glass, chairman of Ambassadors, told Armagh I the club has been searching for a home of its own for “a long time”.

He explained: “We got the Community Ownership funding, which is brilliant. We’ll apply for other funding as well and the plan will be to regenerate it.

“We want to put down a new 3G pitch and then use it as a centre for Ambassadors Football, use it for camps and for training sessions for sports ministry.”

Alongside a new 3G pitch, Stewart hopes they will also be able to upgrade the lights from halogen to LED.

“That’s phase one,” he said. “Phase two will be trying to redevelop the MUGA and we’ll see where we go from there.”

Stewart says he hopes the facilities will provide a benefit to the wider community and not just the club.

“It’s going to be brilliant for the community. Brownlow Integrated College is right beside it and it has no artificial outdoor facilities there and doesn’t even have a sports hall. That would be on their doorstep, great for them and we are happy for them to use it,” he said.

“We really just want to see as many different teams and people using it as possible. Then our senior team will use it as the main pitch.

“Part of the appeal of Craigavon is it’s a real mix of all different religions, different cultures and different nationalities. So it’s kind of like a mission field in itself.

“There’s been a lot of work going on but the work really starts now. It’s a big investment and we’re there for the long-term.”

He added: “We’ve been going nearly 20 years now, so it’s great that we finally found ourselves a home!”

Read more: Two decaying leisure centres added to long list of dereliction

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