Almost half of the UK’s football community are still having to put up with sub-standard facilities on a regular basis, a new Club Website poll can reveal.
49 percent of over 2,000 people polled described the overall quality of facilities at their grassroots football matches as either “poor” (25.5%) or “terrible” (23.3%).
This compares to 28% of people with a positive overall view of their football facilities, describing them as either “excellent” (14.2%) or “good” (13.7%).
The remaining 23% of respondents described their facilities as “OK”.
The results are strikingly similar to a 2009 poll – which led to a Club Website tour of some of the country’s worst facilities to highlight the issue – suggesting that the situation has not improved in the ensuing period.
The Football Foundation, the UK’s largest sports charity, has done more than anyone to improve the infrastructure of football facilities in this country in the last decade.
Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded more than £420m in grants to help improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of over £520m.
But despite helping to build thousands of impressive new facilities around the country, which have transformed the quality of grassroots sport offered to countless people, the Foundation has seen their funding cut in recent years.
The Football Foundation is funded by the Premier League, The FA and the Government (via Sport England), each of whom invested an annual £20m each when the Foundation was launched in July 2000.
This combined £60m investment – around £85m today when adjusted for inflation – has since decreased to an annual £34m, only £28m of which is directly invested into grassroots facilities.
The FA recently announced a new £150m Facilities Strategy, after 84% of people they surveyed told them that facilities were their most pressing concern.
The £150m outlined represents a continuation of existing funding rather than any new investment, but the strategy focuses on the three partners working together to improve football facilities.
Whilst the continuing economic crisis and the threat of a triple-dip recession suggest more bleak times ahead for many, the Premier League continues to buck the global financial trend.
With a new £3bn domestic TV deal set to kick in from the start of next season – up 70% on the previous deal – the game has never been richer, but how much of that money will filter down to the grassroots game remains to be seen.
The cross-game approach to improving facilities is expected to tie the three funding partners to similar levels of investment moving forward and, whilst the Premier League is awash with cash, the government is in the midst of the toughest period of austerity for decades.
All the while, pressure increases on the budgets of local councils – responsible for many of the worst football pitches and facilities around – making the game more expensive for many without any improvement in the facilities on offer.
The next round of Football Foundation funding is up for discussion later this year. Judging by the results of this latest Club Website poll – which highlights an issue that just won’t go away – the grassroots community will be eagerly awaiting the outcome.
Club Website poll: How would you rate the overall quality of facilities at your grassroots football matches?
– Poor 25.5%
– Terrible 23.3%
– OK 23.2%
– Excellent 14.2%
– Good 13.7%
Total votes cast: 2,039