EFL League One’s Plymouth Argyle have agreed a deal for a permanent home for the Argyle Academy in the heart of the city.

Argyle, the Argyle Community Trust, Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Albion RFC and Devonport Community Leisure Ltd (DCLL) have struck a deal which will see £21 million invested in rejuvenating the under-utilised Brickfields site in Devonport, with a focus on community health, wellbeing, and raising aspirations.

As part of the plans, Argyle will provide an eight-figure investment towards the project, which will see wholesale redevelopment of Brickfields to install superb facilities for the club’s ambitious youth Academy, including a covered pitch and other amenities which are of the standard required to apply for Category 2 status in the future.

Further detail on the site’s future layout will be revealed in due course, but the initial agreement operates on the principle that the Academy centre will include:

  • An improved suite of playing pitches including three grass football pitches, and replacing an existing grass rugby training pitch with a new 3G pitch
  • A new purpose-built Academy building, including classrooms for scholars, office space for Academy staff, changing rooms, a gym, and a parents’ lounge 
  • A new floodlit 3G football pitch to replace a poor condition (currently closed) hockey pitch 
  • A new, covered 3G football pitch
  • Conversion of the existing 60m x 40m rubber crumb pitch to two PlayZones exclusively for public use
  • Better site access, public realm and parking
  • Opening up the site for community paths

The partnership with Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Albion RFC, DCLL and other grass-roots sports clubs will see Argyle further its community status with the development of a new community hub on the site, operated by the Argyle Community Trust.

The site will also become the permanent home of the Argyle Women’s first-team.

Andrew Parkinson, CEO and Trustee of the Argyle Community Trust , said: 

This is a significant milestone in the club’s proud history, and provides great excitement for the future of Argyle, with the prospect of a permanent academy base taking us one step further in our strategic vision to see the club attract, retain and develop the region’s best young talent.

Regenerating the site to provide first-class facilities for our Academy and other elite sports addresses a need, not only for Argyle, but other stakeholders, including Plymouth Albion RFC.

The proposal will also provide significant benefit for the Devonport community, allowing the Argyle Community Trust to use redeveloped facilities to manage a thriving community hub, providing members of the public with access, support, and equipment to reduce health inequalities and promote wellbeing.

Investment in facilities at Brickfields will be delivered in tandem with an enhanced, proactive provision of services and support offered to local residents by the Trust. 

The wide-ranging offering will significantly exceed what is presently available for the community at Brickfields, including education and employment programmes, adult education, wellbeing support, a dedicated space for youth services, a soft play centre, new, affordable gym, and a community café.

In addition, the club has committed to offering a generous programme of community usage on specific pitches on site.

For the club’s part, the £11m investment will be provided by existing shareholders, with a further £7.3m coming via the Argyle Community Trust through sport and community development grant funding. 

The remaining investment will be provided by Plymouth City Council, funded by savings made on the site by handing management responsibility to Argyle. The Council will retain ownership of the site, leasing it to the entities involved on a very long, nominal rent, similar to the arrangement currently in place at Harper’s Park, where Argyle’s first-team train.

The extensive schedule of works is due to begin at Brickfields early in 2024, subject to necessary approval. Given its strategic value and long-term importance to the future of Argyle, the Brickfields project will take precedence over planned redevelopment of the Mayflower Grandstand.

Neil Dewsnip, director of football at Home Park, said: 

This is another very encouraging development for the future of Argyle. In parallel with work to develop the first team site at Harpers, the foundations for a sustainable conveyor belt of local talented footballers – developed the Argyle way – are being laid, right in the heart of the city.

Combining these aspirational facilities with a brand-new community facility will be an outstanding accomplishment, and one everyone in the city can be proud of.

Councillor Pat Patel, cabinet member for customer services, culture, leisure and sport at Plymouth City Council, said: 

This is an extraordinary deal that will unlock millions of pounds of investment to provide incredible facilities to nurture talent in this city as well as expand the offer to local people.

We have been talking extensively to the people who use Brickfields, as well as groups and individuals in Devonport, about what facilities and activities they want to see. At the moment the entire site is not being used as well as it should be.

We have a plan for sport that the city’s clubs and organisations helped create and this proposal really fits the bill. Together we are working to increase participation – opening up opportunities get more people involved in sports and physical activity.

But this is also about pride; locating the Argyle Academy in Brickfields strengthens the links between the city and Argyle, as well as creating a sense of aspiration for the young people living nearby. We will not see a deal of this scale for many years to come.