Utilising an operating lease to build a FIFA quality 3g football pitch

The White Horse Federation utilised a sports pitch operating lease to build a FIFA quality 3G football pitch that pays for itself, increased student admissions, and supports Elite Football Programs at John Madejski Academy.

“Pupils are so proud of the new 3G football pitch - They’ve become ambassadors for the school. They’re ‘selling’ the pitch to their friends and this has helped to attract more students to the school”


Tony Wells, Site Controller, John Madejski Academy

Key Achievements

  • Full 3G football pitch refurbishment to FIFA Quality Standards.
  • Funding secured on a sports pitch operating lease.
  • Community pitch rental revenue exceeding leasing costs.
  • Construction conducted in term-time and completed ahead of schedule.
  • New pitch has engendered additional sense of pride in staff and students.

The Challenge

John Madejski Academy, a member of The White Horse Federation (WHF) Multi-Academy Trust, operates in close partnership with Reading Football Club. The school offers Elite Football Performance programs, where students undertake their academic studies alongside training with A-license coaches, with the goal of becoming professional footballers.

It’s not just the aspiring professionals who benefit. Sport is hugely motivational for all pupils at the school and opportunities to participate are used to encourage pupils to study in academic areas. So, when the existing pitch reached the end of it’s usable life, the school decided to take immediate action and invest in a new pitch.

The Solution

The WHF team considered paying for the pitch outright, investigated FA and match funding options, but ultimately calculated that a sports pitch operating lease would be the most cost effective option for the new 3G surface.

“On balance paying £50-£60k per year on an operating lease represented better value than paying upfront costs of around £270k – £300k…and the income generated from pitch rental offsets the repayments”

David Maine, Director of Estates and Facilities, White Horse Foundation

The trust’s strong finances meant that it was relatively straightforward to secure funding in the form of an operating lease. The next step was selecting a contractor who could deliver the pitch to the school’s specification and deadlines.

WHF sourced quotes from five contractors and in the course of their research found that S&C Slatter “were well regarded in the market, with a good reputation for quality and integrity.”

“S&C Slatter were a well-known company offering a competitive price. I received a good reference from Swindon Town FC Community Foundation and when I saw their 3G pitch I was impressed – so it was a straightforward decision”

David Maine

The S&C Slatter construction team worked through pouring rain to complete the refurbishment works in 7 weeks, one week ahead of schedule.  The project was delivered during term-time, with the team adhering to all safeguarding standards, and using careful logistical and health and safety planning to co-ordinate site access with minimal disruption for students and staff.

The Results

The school’s elite training program is now being delivered on site with the 84 players enrolled across the boy’s and girl’s academy groups using the pitch throughout the school week.

The high quality 3G artificial surface, to FIFA Quality standards, is returning £120 per hour from pitch rentals from the local community and feedback from hirers has been extremely positive. The pitch is fully booked from 6-10pm on weekday evenings which, coupled with weekend bookings, is generating over £100k of annual revenue. This income offsets the leasing costs and provides a positive contribution to school finances.

With S&C Slatter advising the on-site team, and undertaking specialist pitch maintenance as required, the school is well equipped to maximise the lifetime value of their new pitch.

We look forward to seeing which footballing stars of the future train on the new pitch at the academy, a school which has already produced footballers to premier league, women’s super league and international levels!