CW poll finds sub-standard pitches and changing rooms are still the biggest grassroots football issue
The parlous state of public football pitches and changing facilities is still the number one issue facing the grassroots community, a Club Website poll can reveal.
When asked what their top priority would be if they were in charge of grassroots football in 2015, the 2,500 Club Website members polled came back with a familiar answer.
Top of the priority list with 46 percent of the vote was 'better pitches / facilities', capturing almost three times as many votes as any other option on the poll, which caused great debate on our Facebook page.
Second in line was 'more investment / reduced costs' with 17 percent of the vote, followed by 'better coaching' (14%), 'improving touchline behaviour' (13%) and a 'switch to summer football' (11%).
With calls for summer football driven by the unplayable state of many pitches during the winter months, and calls for increased investment often linked to the parlous state of public facilities, you could argue that over two-thirds of those polled are frustrated with the facilities at their disposal.
It is five years since Club Website's facilities tour, in which we visited some of the country's worst grassroots facilities, following the revelation that over half of Britain's footballers had to put up with sub-standard facilities on a regular basis.
But, five years on, little has changed for many amateur teams. It appears that for every club that gets access to a new 3G pitch from the Football Foundation, or through similar facilities projects in Scotland or Wales, another club finds itself unable to afford the increasing cost of public pitch hire, driven in recent years by drastic cuts to local authority funding.
There are, however, reasons to be optimistic, not least for football teams in England's major cities, following the FA's announcement of their £230m plan to build 150 new grassroots football hubs in 30 cities by 2020.
Almost half of 1,500 Club Website members polled on the issue said the FA's plans were cause for optimism about the future of grassroots football - Yes 45%; No 37%; Don't know 18% - and that was before £50m of government funding was confirmed for the project.
Further funding is expected from the Premier League and the Football League, along with local authorities involved in the new 'hub' projects, which have kicked off with a pilot trial in Sheffield.
Grassroots football facilities are clearly still a big issue - the biggest issue to those who play the game week in and week out. Big issues call for big actions and the FA's plans, if followed through, could begin to transform the grassroots game in England, at least.
But 2020 is just five short years away and the best laid plans of mice, men and football authorities often go astray. Let's just hope that, in five years' time, the overall state of our grassroots football facilities has improved more than it has in the last five.
Club Website poll result: If YOU were in charge of grassroots football in 2015, what would be your TOP priority?
* Better pitches / facilities - 45.5%
* More investment / reduced costs - 15.8%
* Better coaching - 13.9%
* Improving touchline behaviour - 13.4%
* Switch to summer football - 11.4%
Total votes cast: 2,502
NEW Club Website poll: Are you optimistic about the future of grassroots football over the next five years?
Cast your vote now via your club or league website, or via our demo site.