FA risks funding cut as participation figures drop

English football faces cut in lottery funding after decline in number of people playing the game

The Football Association could face a cut in government funding following a drop in the number of people playing the game in England.

Participation figures published by Sport England, who provide National Lottery funding to grassroots sport's governing bodies, show that 1.84m people currently play football once a week - a decline of 100,000 since April and a 10 percent decrease on 2005 figures.

Last year the FA was awarded £30m of Sport England funding for 2013-17, but the recent decline will cause concern at Sport England, who could suspend up to 20 percent of the FA's funding for their failure to meet targets.

Sport England chief executive Jenni Price said: "We are very disappointed by football's results and the FA really need to grasp this.

"There is now to be a discussion with the FA and our board, but we operate a payment for results scheme so football are definitely in the 'at-risk' zone.

"The FA has the power to do an enormous amount of good for grassroots football as they have a lot of sponsorship, a lot of power and connections, but they need to focus and work much more effectively. They have to think big in their participation programmes."

The results of Sport England's Active People Survey show football behind swimming, cycling and athletics in terms of the number of people taking part in sport at least once a week.

The FA are concerned by the "clearly disappointing" results, which will be placed straight at the top of their priority list, according to their general secretary Alex Horne.

"These are clearly disappointing numbers," said Horne. "Understanding and reversing the fall in participation is an immediate and top priority and we are working exhaustively with Sport England and our other partners to ensure the right plans and programmes are in place to achieve this.

"Notwithstanding the impact of external factors such as the weather and the economic pressures on local authority playing facilities; what is clear is that the nature of football participation is changing and that our players increasingly want football on their terms; less formal, less frequent, more flexible.

"Through our own research we are confident that we have the right programmes in place to ensure that we can meet these needs and to grow and sustain the regularity of the football they play."

Despite the worrying results for football and similarly for tennis, Sport England revealed an overall post-Olympic increase in the number of people playing sport every week.

A total of 15.5 million people take part in sport once a week - an increase of over 1.5m since London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games in 2005.

Have your say - Why are fewer people playing football?

What do you think about the decline in the number of people playing football? Why are fewer people playing the game today? Have you recently given up? If so, what were your reasons for doing so?

Also, what should the FA do in a bid to attract more people back to the beautiful game? Have your say in our comments section below.

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