LONDON (Reuters) - The British government pledged 50 million pounds ($78.11 million) to improve grass roots soccer facilities across the country when finance minister George Osborne opened Manchester City's new City Football Academy on Monday.
Speaking at the stunning complex in east Manchester, Osborne said the government had taken note of the Football Association's recommendations and was making money available for all-weather pitches and coaching.
"The facilities available here are sadly not matched in every town and city across the country or in every community," he said.
"And so we are making a commitment today to a 50 million pounds investment in many more all-weather pitches, and in more football coaching so that all of our communities and all of our youngsters have the opportunity to shine on the football pitch."
"This is an important step forward and is something the Football Association have recommended to us and we have taken forward as a government."
Plans for a facility like the City Football Academy were first mooted when Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi took over Manchester City in 2008 and they have taken six years to come to fruition.
The complex, next to the club's Etihad Stadium, stands on an 80–acre site that was formerly derelict but now comprises 16 pitches and a 7,000-seater stadium.
It also includes coaching and education facilities, medical and sports science services, sleeping accommodation and parents’ facilities.
The CFA will also serve as a global hub for City's sister clubs New York City FC, Melbourne City FC and Yokohama Marinos.
Tony Book, who played for City in the 1960s and 1970s and is their most decorated captain and a former manager, said he was hugely impressed.
"It's a wonderful day for the club to open up a facility like this, it can't get any better can it?," he said, declaring it a world away from the old Maine Road ground where he played.
"When the weather was bad you had to make do with whatever was available to you like running up and down the stand's steps, or going out on the car park -- that was what it was about."
(1 = 0.6401 British Pounds)
Reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Alan Baldwin