Caird Park: the value of ambition

David McHendry explains how Dundee’s new regional performance centre can trace its roots back to an ambitious bid for a national project and why investment in good research rarely fails to pay off.


The opening of the new Caird Park regional performance centre in January 2020 brought a first-class facility to Dundee but, from a facility development perspective, it also served to illustrate the value of ambition and a long-term approach to sports provision.

Caird Park represents a significant investment by sportscotland and Dundee City Council. The £32-million scheme is now home to a full-size artificial indoor pitch, an outdoor 3G pitch that meets Fifa and World Rugby international standards, an eight-court sports hall, a sports science suite, health club and meeting spaces. These sit alongside an indoor athletics centre, an outdoor athletics track and floodlit outdoor velodrome. As well as providing a venue for Dundee United’s academy, Caird Park also serves as a community sports hub that is home to eight community sports clubs.

Caird Park was not a KKP project but the development of a major sports venue in Dundee has its roots in a different project that we had worked on some years previously.

In 2012 sportscotland and the Scottish Football Association invited bids from partner cities to host the Scottish National Performance Centre. KKP led Dundee City Council’s team and put together a strong bid based on the development of an unused part of Camperdown Country Park; this would have hosted the performance centre and hotel. Reaching the final bid stage of the process represented a significant achievement and also generated a great deal of positive feedback, not only from sportscotland and the SFA but also from the local and regional stakeholder organisations that had been part of the bid preparation.

However, the need for the national football team to be close to a major airport always had Dundee on the back foot. The Oriam at Herriot Watt University now fits the bill for sportscotland and the SFA’s needs.

KKP’s involvement with the project came to an end at the bid stage but the scheme had served to illustrate the potential for high-quality sports facilities in Dundee. Although the bid had been focused on a national performance centre, the process of developing the bid helped to make a case for a regional football development centre when the time came. A change of scale also raised the possibility of a change of location and offered the possibility of co-locating with the existing facilities in Caird Park, creating a large sports hub closer to the centre of the city.

In the context of a bid for a national performance centre, a regional football centre might seem like something of a runners-up prize but, a few years on from that first KKP-led project, the Caird Park scheme represents an excellent outcome for the city. The Caird Park development has generated significant inward investment  brought significant investment in the City offer and created a high quality, accessible, comprehensive home for sport in the region.

Caird Park demonstrates that, the time, energy and expertise invested in making a properly researched and well-prepared bid is seldom wasted. Any opportunity to undertake an in-depth assessment of facilities, demand and potential is an opportunity that should be grasped.

Caird Park also serves as a reminder of the value of ambition. If Dundee was always an unlikely venue for Scotland’s national performance centre, it was a bid that fitted in with the city’s determination to rediscover and reinvigorate itself as a city of opportunity and culture. The city is now the host to the V&A Dundee, the first design museum in Scotland and the first Victoria and Albert Museum site outside London, illustrating what can be achieved with a strong vision and a determined, strategic approach.

In the end the national performance centre did not come to Dundee but it could not see any reason why it shouldn’t. By having the confidence to bid, the city demonstrated its ambition and created an opportunity to reimagine its approach to sports provision.

At KKP our experience tells that asking the right questions is the starting point for a successful project. With Caird Park and the scheme that laid the foundations for its development Dundee demonstrated that, rather than “Why?”, the first question should always be: “Why not?”


David McHendry is managing director at KKP.
Contact David at david.mchendry@kkp.co.uk

27 February 2020

The FA National Football Facilities Strategy: delivering a nationwide set of local football facility plans

KKP’s work on behalf of the FA to deliver a local football facility plan (LFFP) for every local authority is nearing completion. Andrew Fawkes explains how it has been done and what it means for local football.

Grassroots football facilities, their poor condition and impact on the pathway to performance of our national team are perennially emotive issues faced by the FA and frequently raised in the national media. However, the FA is now implementing a 10-year strategy to change the landscape of football facilities in England. This is underpinned by an action plan for investment in every local authority, referred to as a Local Football Facility Plan (LFFP).

KKP is leading delivery of the LFFP programme, working hand in hand with county FAs. This process has run over an intensive two-year period and is scheduled to be completed by mid-2020.

Working in partnership with the UK Government, the Premier League, Sport England and the Football Foundation, the FA is setting out its response to, and estimating the costs of addressing, the needs of grassroots football in light of KKP’s work. Feedback on existing facilities received as part of the LFFP process consistently mirrors that of the national strategy. It is a picture of poor-quality grass pitches, changing pavilions in need of improvement, and insufficient access to floodlit, artificial grass (3G) football turf pitches (FTPs). The cumulative ask in terms of capital investment required is huge but the FA is also playing catch-up in terms of facility numbers; England has only half the number of 3G pitches of its European footballing neighbours.

Having now spoken directly to over 2,000 grassroots football clubs, nearly 300 local authorities plus a range of other stakeholders (not to mention covering thousands of motorway miles), our team has identified an excellent portfolio of pipeline projects. Surrey is one of the areas with high potential; it is also one of the largest and most diverse of the FA’s counties. The Surrey County FA serves an area with a population of over two million people, 4,000 teams and more than 40,000 registered players. It encompasses the 11 boroughs and districts in the Surrey County Council domain plus five London boroughs. It is also an area where the county FA takes a strong lead on facilities development.

Quite a few community clubs in Surrey are, in terms of levels of demand and their management capacity, capable of taking on full-sized FTPs in their own right. As an example, following KKP’s work on Waverley Borough Council’s playing pitch strategy (PPS) and now its LFFP, several projects are either in the pipeline or are now on the point of delivery. Some of these are supported by significant Section 106 funding and all are benefitting from strategic engagement with the Football Foundation.

Of the 330 LFFPs commissioned, 70% are now signed off and being activated by county FAs working with the Football Foundation Engagement Team.  From KKP’s perspective, it is highly encouraging to note that stakeholder feedback on the LFFP development process is very positive; across all plan elements, more than 93% of those who expressed a specific view confirmed the usefulness and accuracy of their plan’s content.

This overwhelmingly positive feedback is a strong endorsement of the methodology KKP has developed over many years of experience in this field. It is also a testament to the hard work the KKP team puts in on the ground, visiting sites and engaging with clubs and communities in situ to develop real insight into facilities and the opportunities they can deliver.

Andrew Fawkes is a Principal Consultant with KKP. Contact him at andrew.fawkes@kkp.co.uk

Details of the LFFP programme are available via the Football Foundation website at https://localplans.footballfoundation.org.uk

(Figures based upon receipt of 318 responses from local authorities, county FAs and other stakeholders). 


14 February 2020

NEWS RELEASE: New commission takes KKP to playing pitch century

Issue date: 11 February 2020

New commission takes KKP to playing pitch century
100 playing pitch strategies since new Sport England guidance

Knight, Kavanagh and Page (KKP) reached its playing pitch strategy (PPS) century with the recent commission from Halton Borough Council. This will be the 100th PPS that KKP has undertaken since publication of the Sport England PPS Guidance in mid-2013.

Playing pitch strategies are commissioned to ensure that funding is invested effectively, reaching the right pitches in the right places. Sport England recommends that all local authorities have an up-to-date PPS in order to meet the recreational, sporting and physical activity needs of local communities. They now also underpin the FA’s Local Football Facilities Plan for each local authority in England.

Claire Fallon, KKP director and principal consultant who leads KKP’s work in this discipline, commented: “Our 100th PPS commission since the Sport England guidance is a significant milestone, both for KKP as an organisation and for the concept of a proper planning process for playing pitches, which are fundamental to sport at all levels and in all areas of the country.”

Claire continued: “The number of PPS commissions KKP receives is testament to the hard work that our team puts in, gathering the most robust data possible, getting out to speak to users and seeing the facilities for themselves. Our team makes it their responsibility to visit every site and talk to anyone and everyone who might be a user or stakeholder. They take great pride in getting their boots muddy in the line of duty.”

KKP’s approach to preparing a PPS emphasises the importance of site visits, a detailed inter-personal consultation process, and the compilation of comprehensive reliable data. Site visits enable the KKP team not only to log every facility but also to assess the scale, quality and accessibility of each pitch, along with the opportunities it might represent. The consultation process involves numerous face-to-face and telephone interviews, ensuring the full engagement of all stakeholders, while the company’s geographic information systems (GIS) team provides a huge resource, mapping demographic and participation data, and evaluating the impact of population increases and housing development to underpin the process.

KKP chief executive John Eady commented: “This is our 100th PPS since the Sport England guidance was published but KKP has been delivering them since 2002, so we have actually done a great many more. Our track record was the reason for KKP’s selection to the 2010 PPS consultants framework and also what prompted Sport England to commission KKP to draft the PPS guidance on its behalf. This was published in 2013 and we were pleased to be able to make our knowledge and experience available to such a wide audience.”

Eady continued: “KKP’s reputation and client base in this field has grown rapidly, primarily because we commit ourselves to the highest standards and the quality of our work is founded on the most detailed evidence base in the sector. This approach means hard work but our insistence on working this way is based on the fact that face-to-face consultation unearths realistic, robust issues and better identifies demand. Our success in this field suggests that clients recognise and value our commitment to high standards and high-quality outcomes.”

Notes for editors

• Further details of KKP’s work on playing pitch strategies and in all aspects of the fields of sport, leisure and planning are available via the KKP website at www.kkp.co.uk
• Claire Fallon and John Eady are available for interview. Please contact KKP via 0161 764 7040 or email mail@kkp.co.uk
• The Sport England document Playing Pitch Strategy Guidance: An Approach to Developing and Delivering a Playing Pitch Strategy is available via the Sport England website at: www.sportengland.org/facilities-and-planning 
• The KKP post-project completion survey undertaken with all clients between 2014-2019 showed that more than 97% of clients would recommend KKP to others and more than 93% were prepared to be referees.

Importance of quality

KKP’s approach to quality and customer service has served its clients well over the course of 30 years of business. John Eady explains how and why quality is central to the Company’s modus operandi.

Maya Angelou, the American poet, singer and civil rights activist, said, “People forget what you said. They forget what you did. But they never forget how you made them feel.”

KKP is a busy consultancy practice with a great many projects running at once and it is easy to get caught up in what we do, what we think we have achieved for our clients and the great service provided. However, although we do excellent work, it is essential never to forget that it is the client that matters most. Great customer service is measured by whether, at the end of the assignments, clients feels that they made the right decision in choosing KKP to deliver the strategy or solve their problem. Even when we disagree with a client’s point of view – and it is fundamentally important that we are able to disagree – it is vital that they know that we are on their side and committed to helping them.

The absolute underpinning of this is quality. Fully rounded, the concept of quality draws upon a wide variety of elements, skills and behaviours: open-mindedness; listening and hearing; knowledge, experience and expert analysis; plus the confidence to reflect and challenge. However, at the top of the list of the essentials of quality would have to be: attitude, communication and commitment to the client’s interest.

KKP first acquired ISO9001 quality certification in 2007 – for project management and delivery – as part of a determination to put quality at the centre of our business. We have been successfully reassessed every year since, up to and including 2019. ISO, in effect, drives continual review and improvement across all work areas. It subjects the organisation to regular interrogation and oversight by expert external assessors but ultimately the quality of our operation will be judged by our clients.

On project completion, all clients are asked to evaluate and rate us on the following criteria:

  • The final product delivered: how well we met the brief, attention to detail, the quality of work undertaken and the report/strategy/feasibility study/evaluation produced.
  • The quality of client communication, support and advice, both during and after the delivery of the contract.
  • On-time delivery and the meeting of deadlines, with regard to overall outcomes and interim project milestones.
  • The extent to which they consider us to have delivered value for money.

Between 2014 and December 2019 KKP received completed feedback from 126 clients; two thirds of these were local authorities with the balance from a combination of national governing bodies of sport (NGBs), planning consultancies and developers, universities, leisure trusts and active partnerships. All the feedback we receive is scored and analysed; we believe the results speak for themselves. Most notably, virtually all (more than 97%) would recommend us to others and more than 93% are prepared to be referees.

In 2020 KKP entered its 30th continuous year in business so there is a good chance that our clients know who we are, how we work and what they are going to get in terms of our experience, attitude and ethos. After three decades of working across a range of professional sectors on a wide variety of projects with a huge number of clients, we have come to the conclusion that the process of choosing and working with a consultancy can be boiled down to the following fundamentals:

  • Choose a practice that you know will look to learn with you from any subject or situation.
  • Work with people who do not come with fixed ideas about how things are supposed to be and how to handle them.
  • Value truth and integrity above all other things; they are the key to high-quality consultancy and without them the support you get will be of limited, if any, value.
  • Choose people who will go into battle for you (and if necessary – behind closed doors – with you) to ensure the right outcome.

When you are choosing a consultancy keep these fundamentals in mind. Investing in quality is always worth the cost.

Client rating of KKP delivery (as of 31 December 2019)


7 February 2020