EXUBERANCE marked by a touch of relief saw the official opening of the brand-new Cardinals Sports Hub at Woking College recently, an event that had seen several delays due to the impact of COVID-19.

The project includes a 3G sports pitch and a new pavilion. It is the result of a partnership between Woking Football Club in the Community, Woking Borough Council and Woking College, represented by a cross section for the opening ceremony, as well as Woking MP Jonathan Lord and the Mayor of Woking, Cllr Saj Hussain.

Funding for the initiative came from multiple sources, including £379,000 from the Football Foundation and a further £150,000 from the London Marathon Community Trust.

John Monday, the CEO of the charity Cardinals in the Community, called the new facility a “community game-changer” on two levels. The pitch is already well used by partner clubs such as Woking Tigers, Goldsworth Park Rangers, Woking Cougars and Surrey Schools Girls alongside other local teams, Woking academies, the college, ladies’ teams and community tournaments.

The versatile meeting room, which accommodates 80 people, has an adjoining fitted kitchen and as well as plentiful parking is already seeing a growing number of bookings.

John added that the Cardinals Hub is a base for extensive community initiatives working with over 2,500 people a month. It has become a major focus of health and wellbeing and has won national recognition for the breadth of its work with disability groups, schools and support for those with mental health struggles.

The outreach work is recovering well from lockdowns and new initiatives include supporting dementia sufferers, making Woking FC a dementia-friendly club as well as exploring how to support those struggling with Autism. Women’s football is also a massive growth area for both women’s and girls’ football.

The Cardinals in the Community chairman of trustees, Ian Nicholson, highlighted the innovative aspects of the scheme which builds on the many years of Woking FC’s community vision. He emphasised that the full impact of the pandemic and cost of living crisis was likely to be a once in a generation challenge but, despite all charities facing a financial squeeze, Cardinals in the Community was “up for the task”, supported by partners, and primed to do whatever it could to support the most vulnerable.

Woking Borough Council’s Deputy Leader and ward councillor, Will Forster, said: “The project is an excellent example of partnership working between Cardinals in the Community, Woking College and Woking Borough Council. Having opened to the public earlier this year, I am especially pleased to see how well it is being used, with a huge number of people and diverse communities using the facility.”

For information on Cardinals in the Community and to book the pitch and pavilion, email [email protected] or visit www.wokingcitc.org