Football’s coming home to Bedford thanks to resurfaced community pitch

published on 26 Jun 2018

As England cheers on its national team at the World Cup, young people are busy practising their skills at The Salvation Army’s newly resurfaced community sports facility on Commercial Road, Bedford. 

Thanks to the support of The Harpur Trust, Bedford Borough Council and a generous legacy, the open-access Multi-Use Games Area, known as a ‘MUGA’, has been given a much-needed upgrade after five years of constant use. More than 100 people use the facility every week.

The new surface was celebrated and ‘played-in’ with a community fun day including a junior and adult ‘King of the Cage’ football tournament run by Bruno’s Brazil Soccer School. More than 100 local people enjoyed the event, which included a free bouncy castle, face painting, children’s crafts, a prayer tent and barbecue.

Major Angie Bailey, who leads Bedford Salvation Army with her husband Major Graham Bailey, said: “This sports facility sits at the heart of our community and is used on a daily basis by people of all ages, backgrounds, religions and cultures. Sport is an amazing way to bring people together and at the same time it’s so good for health and general wellbeing. 

“The Salvation Army is committed to serving local people and opened this community space five years ago because local people said they needed a safe place to enjoy sport. We are so grateful to The Harpur Trust, Bedford Borough Council and supporters of The Salvation Army because their generosity has meant this well-loved facility can continue serving the community for years to come.”

Every Tuesday from 5pm, Bruno’s Brazil Soccer School runs football training for young people aged 6-14 years old and from 7-9pm there is an open training session for adults and young people aged 16 and over.  Every other Friday evening there is a ‘walking’ football session, a slower paced version of the game, for people of any age and ability. The rest of the week, the facility operates on an open-access policy, where anyone can come along and use the pitch, which is marked ready with nets and goals for a variety of games, including basketball and football.

Many of the young people who attend the football sessions face challenging circumstances and some are refugees and asylum seekers. A team of Salvation Army volunteers supports the training sessions, enabling them to build positive relationships with the young people and their families and signpost people on to appropriate support services run by The Salvation Army and other local organisations. 

Major Angie continued: “Here in Bedford, The Salvation Army offers a diverse range of practical services, from debt advice and emergency food parcels to social and sports-based activities, to help people integrate into the community and experience life in all its fullness.”

The sports facility was initially installed in 2012 following community consultation around the lack of safe places for young people to play sports such as football and cricket.  Many young people had nowhere to go so held impromptu games in the roads surrounding Commercial Road. The Salvation Army responded by transforming a piece of derelict wasteland into a space that would be safe for local people to enjoy.  

Since opening, the facility has been so well used by the community that the old surface had begun to break down. Following research and consultation with the users of the sports pitch, a Sport England approved polymeric (rubberised) surface has been installed so this facility can continue to be safely enjoyed. 

Bruno Santos of Bruno’s Brazil Soccer School, said: “The cage [MUGA] has become the home of Bruno’s Brazil Soccer School as we have engaged well with the local community. We are delighted with the improvements of the cage.”

Lucy Bardner, Community Programmes Director for The Harpur Trust, said: “We are proud of Bedford’s reputation as a town where diversity is recognised as a strength and people from many backgrounds study, work and have fun together as a community. This doesn’t happen without a lot of unpaid work from many volunteers, including the team from The Salvation Army, so we were delighted to support them by contributing to the new surface at the MUGA.”

Steve Savva, Sports Project Manager at Bedford Borough Council, said: “It is amazing how well used the MUGA is by the local community and it is great that we are able to provide this facility for the community to use with the support of The Harpur Trust and Bedford Borough Council!”

For more information about The Salvation Army’s sports facility, please contact Angie Bailey or Jonny Whitmore via