The Football Association has launched a new three-year plan to improve grassroots football facilities in England.
The National Facilities Strategy 2013-15 outlines plans for £150m of investment over the next three years, including improving 3,000 grass pitches, building 100 new artificial pitches and refurbishing 150 existing artificial pitches.
The strategy was developed after FA research found that “poor facilities” was the most pressing issue facing the grassroots game, with 84% of respondents raising the concern.
The FA’s 2011 Big Grassroots Football Survey found that regular participants want improved pitches (both grass and artificial), floodlighting, changing facilities and toilets, for both playing and training with their clubs.
In 2010, Club Website visited some of the country’s worst football facilities having found out that over half of the grassroots football community have to put up with sub-standard facilities on a regular basis.
The Football Foundation has invested over £780m in new and improved facilities since it formed in 2000, using money provided by the FA, Premier League and Government, via Sport England.
Whilst the £150m outlined in the new survey does not represent any new investment but a projection of existing funding over the next three years, the strategy aims to ensure all partners work together to improve football facilities and protect them for future generations.
Roger Burden, Chairman of the FA National Game Board, highlighted the significant investment in facilities made by the Football Foundation over the last 13 years, but conceded that a “huge amount of work” still lies ahead.
“Football has enjoyed a remarkable period of investment since the formation of the Football Foundation in 2000, with thousands of clubs and teams having benefited from this investment,” said Burden.
“However, it is clear that there is still a huge amount of work to be done.”
“Many of our top professional footballers started their careers playing on park pitches for local clubs within local leagues.
“Whether used by a young person taking those first steps in football or as a veteran player or as a coach, facilities have a lasting and continuing influence on our experience of the game.
“For this very reason, investment in facilities will continue to be a key priority for the Football Association.”
Alongside the key targets on improving and creating football pitches, the strategy also commits to “improved changing facilities and toilets” on selected sites and continuing the small grants scheme designed to help clubs with smaller facility requirements.
Upcoming changes to the structure of youth football – which will see new 5v5 and 9v9 formats phased in from the start of next season – will also be supported by the Facilities Strategy, which commits to providing “ongoing support with the purchase and replacement of goalposts”.
The Football Foundation is making available grants of 50% towards the total cost of goalposts for the new 9v9 format, with the next funding window opening next month.
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “Whether you are looking to develop the next generation of footballing talent, or are one of the millions who play purely for the love of the game at the grassroots each week, facilities are the platform on which all of that takes place.
“With 84% of people citing ‘poor facilities’ as their most pressing issue, the grassroots game has made it abundantly clear where it thinks the priority for investment should be.
“Developing better, well-maintained facilities is the only way to ensure that we avoid the routine cancellation of fixtures due to flooding and poor weather and to ensure that football does not stop simply because it has got dark.
“The FA deserves real credit for engaging with clubs in the detailed way that it has and for setting out a clear plan to tackle the this issue in the National Facilities Strategy document that we are launching today.”
Click here to view the National Facilities Strategy 2013-15.