Club Website facilities tour: the round-up

Over the last few months, Club Website has been out visiting some of the worst football facilities brought to our attention by you, the Great British footballing public. It’s now time to start wrapping things up, so here we bring you a round-up of what we’ve found and where we go from here.

A Club Website 'condemned' sign and tape

A little context setting first of all, if we may. When Club Website kicked off our Football Revolution at the start of this season, we asked you to tell us one thing that you’d like to change about football.

Loads of you told us that the football facilities at your disposal were, on the whole, pretty hopeless and that not enough money was filtering down through the game to the grassroots.

We decided to dig a little deeper and take a closer look at this important issue and so we put a few big questions out there to the Club Website community using our online polls. The results were pretty startling.

It turns out that half of you have to put up with sub-standard facilities for your regular football matches, while 39 percent of you many don’t even have any changing rooms at your ‘home ground’.

With figures like this staring us in the face, we decided to hit the road and go and take a look for ourselves while getting to find out what you lot out there really think about the facilities that you use.

So over the last few months that’s exactly what we’ve done, with visits to Birmingham, Yorkshire and London in fairly quick succession.

To read a detailed round-up of each location – including an end-of-season progress report and reaction from the council – simply click on the place names below:

Birmingham / South Yorkshire / London

Suffice to say that, no matter where we were, the picture was a pretty familiar one: dark, dank changing rooms (if they were even open), no showers, no heating and no locks on the doors.

The toilet & shower block at Clapham Common


With tongue firmly in cheek, we decked each place out in mock ‘condemned’ placards for just a short while.

This raised one or two eyebrows to say the least but, once they heard what we were doing, people liked the idea of it.  Of course we wouldn’t dream of asking for any facility to be shut down – there are already too few to go around!

The signs were just a way of grabbing attention for the campaign and it seems to have done the trick – with the media at least. Sky Sports News have been into Club Website HQ to speak to us about the campaign as part of their ’11-a-slide’ series looking into the decline in men’s 11-a-side football participation, which is due to air throughout today.

Whether our campaign will have any real and lasting impact remains to be seen, but we’re hoping that – at the very least – the venues we visited will get some much needed TLC and, on a national level, we’ll get people talking about the issue again.

It’s such a huge problem, however, that it’s not going to get fixed overnight. We’ve spoken to each of the major stakeholders in the English game and, whilst the appetite is there to get the problem sorted, the money being thrown at the problem – whilst very substantial – is only really making a dent into the problem at the moment.

The Football Foundation – who, funded jointly by the FA, Premier League and Government, have lead the way on this issue in England since their launch in 2000 – have invested £375m into grassroots projects worth over £875m since they began.

Football Foundation logoBy anyone’s reckoning, this is an incredible amount of money, but we’re still in a position where almost four out of 10 footballers don’t even have a ground to call home, which shows the scale of the project ahead.

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation told Club Website back in December 2008 that the job in hand involved “fixing 30 years of neglect of our grassroots community sports facilities – that’s the playing fields, the local authority pitches.”

Whilst almost a billion pounds has already been invested in grassroots projects – making real changes to the quality of people’s sporting experience across the country – estimates as to the size of the overall bill run into several billions.

The Foundation’s funding partners, for their part, remain committed to continued investment in this area. An FA spokesperson told Club Website: “England enjoys one of the biggest grassroots football communities in the world and The FA along with partners across the game remain committed to improving facilities year after year.”

The Premier League echoed these sentiments. Tim Vine, their Head of Public Affairs told us that they “are fully committed to continuing to improve the state of this country’s football facilities.

“Whilst the amount that has been achieved by the Football Foundation in its ten years should be celebrated, it is clear there is still plenty of work to be done,” he continued. “In fact, we are taking the issue so seriously that we are asking the Football Foundation to focus purely on improving facilities going forward.”

We’ll bring you more comment on the roles of the key stakeholders in the game and discuss how much responsibility football’s governing bodies should shoulder for the state of the game, but arguably the most important player in this area of such importance is the Government.

The two shacks at Kings Norton Park in Birmingham

Not only do they invest money directly into football via the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, but they are also ultimately responsible for the state of public facilities across the country and it’s been no surprise to find that the worst facilities drawn to our attention have, on the whole, been council owned.

Investment in sport has suffered at local level because of increased pressure on education and health budgets, but maybe our leaders – both locally and nationally – need to recognise the huge part that sport can play in both of these headline areas and re-distribute some much-needed funds accordingly.

With the general election campaign in full swing, now isn’t the best time to get a response from government officials on this important issue but, once the cabinet is formed after 6 May – whatever shape or colour it may take – we’ll be sure to ask the important questions that need answering.

It’s a good time to be having a debate on facilities: the future funding of the Football Foundation is in the process of being thrashed out and the people who will be leading our country over the next few years will soon be decided.

Whatever the outcome of this crucial period, as a football community we need to make sure we keep ourselves heard about the need for better facilities, so that we can continue to move forward and make the beautiful game a beautiful thing no matter where the match is played.

Dan Pope, Club Website Editor

A Club Website 'condemned' stickerMore on the Club Website facilties tour:

* Facilities tour homepage
* Tour first leg: Birmingham uncovered
* Tour second leg: Yorkshire uncovered
* Tour third leg: London uncovered
* Club Website Facilities Help Guide (pdf)

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Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

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  1. Daniel Taylor on April 28, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Top work guys. I really hope this gets the ‘ball’ moving (excuse the pun).

    Although the Football Foundation have done a lot, they aren’t much help when it comes down to the very grass roots amateur game i.e pub teams. Any project they give funding towards, must be either matched or contributed to by the team/organisation; and for the majority this is not feasible.

    Many of these teams use shared/council run facilities which are usually the worst and have the biggest need for improvement. I liaise with my local council on this issue on behalf of a League, and as you point out, the funding/monetary aspect is always the main point.

    My feeling is FA should be taking a lead on this (although I guess they have facilities problems of there own to resolve at a certain Stadium!)

    If I can be of assistance, let me know.

    Thumbs up again, up the revolution!

  2. Kenny Mitchell on May 9, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Our club Dollar Glen FC in Scotland can’t even play home games in the town of Dollar as the local council built a Civic Centre on the land and never replaced the pitch. That was 15 years ago. There are playing fields in the town which belong to a fee paying school which our younger teams have had the use of in the past. Unfortunately the school is some distance away from the playing fields and there are no changing facilities on site. There is a primary school next to the private playing fields but there are no changing/showering facilities in the building. Our local council have met with the private school in the past to see if some joint agreement could be made to build changing facilities in return for the use of the private playing field for use by the community but this came to nothing so our town still has no football pitch or changing facilities 15 years on.

  3. Terence Bates on June 16, 2011 at 12:12 am

    Today is my first visit to this website. I posted the following comment in another section of this site, it seems equally appropriate here too.

    ‘It is all very well looking at ways of developing better coaching and strategy for improving football development in the UK. But the glaring issue overlooked is the lack of funding at grassroots level. The English game in particular is awash with billions of pounds so little of it filters through to grassroots level, it is crumbs. As others have said without the unpaid unheralded volunteers there would not be a game in this country. the hard work is often done by these volunteers. We then get the professional clubs picking off what they think are the best players and then spitting them out further along the road, there is absolutely no consensus or willingness to pump money in at the lower levels. In my view there should be a tax applied that can be filtered into where football really has its heart and that is at grassroots level and the likes of Arsenal, Fulham, Tottenham, Newcastle or any other professional club kept out of taking on kids under the age of 11.’

    As you can guess I have certain issues. I am involved at grassroots level running an under 11’s team in an inner London area and have been involved for the last 6 years. My views have been shaped by what I have seen and absorbed. My conclusions as to why we struggle to produce and perform on the international stage despite having the wealthiest professional league in the world, are as follows

    1. Lack of investment at grass roots level

    2. Poor facilities and equipment at grass roots level (as highlighted in article above)

    3. Stereotypical clone coaching of kids at most levels even at district schools level.

    4. Aspirational obsession with parents and coaches who think having an 8 year old in a premier league academy means they have ‘achieved’ and are special.

    5. A national pysche that pushes football at kids level to be driven by fear in ‘having to win at all costs’ thus producing the wonderful ‘hump and thump’ football I have so often seen on a Sunday especially in 11 a side games… it is no wonder we end up with a style of football that can be best described as ‘determination football’ .

    The FA need to look at the bigger picture and start taking even more drastic steps if we seriously want to produce international winning teams. This in itself is going to be difficult because the game is corrupted by cronyism at association level and by corporate greed at the higher professional level. At the bottom level there are some great people but they are underfunded and often poorly trained. I have seen abysmal coaching and approaches by people who have gone on the FA coaching courses, who yet still have the national psyche of let’s play determination football and hump and thump the ball and seem to have no understanding of what is really needed to develop young kids football skills. The messages although I am sure well intended by Trevor Brooking and the FA are not being implemented well enough.

    I am really pleased someone has highlighted the facilities as an issue, as this is something I have been drumming on about for years. From poor playing surfaces to crap footballs, the infrastructure and facilities we use need to be raised to a better standard. Kids football teams should be able to play on a quality surface pitch with a football that is not like kicking a rock and responds in a way that helps develop skills. As an example often grassroots football does not have the money to buy decent balls and they end up with a cheap £1.99 ball for use in training (a pet hate of mine), this for me highlights a big part of the problem in English football, it is staggering to think that for the cost of one premiership player that every kid that plays football in this country could have a decent £10.00 ball. The only way this will change is for more money to come from the higher levels and work done to educate our national psyche to approach both football and sport in general for that matter, with a different attitude of coaching, expectation and facilitation.

  4. Bob on November 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    “The Football Foundation – who, funded jointly by the FA, Premier League and Government, have lead the way on this issue in England since their launch in 2000 – have invested £375m into grassroots”

    sound good???

    In Holland the investment pa is 1 billion euros around twice as much in a single year as the football foundation managed in 10 years in a country with 1/3 the polulation!!!!!!!!! not suprising holland made the world cup final.

  5. Footie Funder on April 29, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    If Terence Bates and Kenny Mitchell still visits this website , we would like to speak to them asap.

    Please email us at [email protected].

  6. p nealon on December 13, 2012 at 11:41 am

    nice article, any help at grass roots level has to be a good thing. the article is a few years old, are there any success stories from the above areas?

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