Lions lengend helps open pitch

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British Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan cheered students on in a rugby game as he officially opened Ripon Grammar School’s new £1m world-class all-weather 3G pitch.

The school’s reputation for sporting excellence has been given a massive boost with the completion of the third-generation artificial grass floodlit playing field, which is also benefiting the wider community of Ripon.

“A sports field doesn’t make character, it finds it and develops it. The more facilities there are like this, the more the pupils and general community will benefit,” said Sir Ian, a former rugby union player who was head coach of Scotland and the British and Irish Lions.

The ITV sports pundit, who believes schools are vital in fostering a passion for sport, told how two enthusiastic PE teachers first got him into rugby: “I wasn’t from a rugby family. They got me involved and got me excited.

“The association of sport with the development of young people is so important. Sport in a school makes good pupils and good people and to have an incredible facility like this now is a tremendous asset to Ripon Grammar School and to the whole community,” said Sir Ian, who received an OBE in 1990.

This new addition to RGS’s sporting facilities, funded by Persimmon Homes, will be used for a wide variety of sports, including lacrosse, rounders and athletics training, as well as for girls’ and boys’ rugby and football and will also serve three local partner clubs.

Sir Ian was joined at the opening celebration by one of his former team-mates in the British & Irish Lions, former Ripon Grammar School student Peter Squires, who commented: “It is great to see what is being built and how the school has developed.

“This magnificent new sports facility enhances the school’s reputation even further.”

The new development encompasses a full-size FIFA-compliant football pitch and full-size World Rugby-compliant artifical pitch and changing block.

Ripon Grammar School has built a regional and national reputation for sporting success in recent years, with two rugby teams crowned county champions and girls’ hockey and netball teams winning national titles.

Now the school’s U18s rugby team - who played St Aidan’s and St John Fishers Associated Sixth Form in a friendly match on the 3G pitch to mark the opening - is hoping to score a hat-trick in March at the finals of the Yorkshire Cup, having won the coveted trophy for the last two years’ running.

Headmaster Jonathan Webb stressed the crucial role schools play in the grassroots development of sport: “This is such an important facility for school and for Ripon RUFC, Ripon City AFC and Ripon City Panthers JFC.”

He thanked Persimmon Homes for choosing to support the school: “This is about a partnership between school and clubs and is very much a community use facility.”

Persimmon agreed to fund the development, part-constructed on the Memorial Field owned by the school’s Old Riponians alumni society – as part of the planning requirements for a new housing development in the city.

The 3G pitch’s durable, all-weather surface, with porous layers which let water drain through easily, can be played on for 80 hours a week, as opposed to the five hours a week natural grass pitches can withstand.

It will be used solely by the school up to 5.30pm and available for public hire during weekends, evenings and public holidays. It can be hired through School Lettings Solutions W: schoollettings.org

Pictured, top (from left) Student Oscar Lees, RGS director of sport Adam Milner, Persimmon Homes sales director Joan Peart, Sir Ian McGeechan, Headmaster Jonathan Webb, PE teacher Jonny Harding and student Will Barrett.