Government pledges £50m to improve grassroots football facilities and coaching over five years
The Football Association's plans to revolutionise England's grassroots football facilities in England have received a £50m funding boost from the Government.
The plans for 150 new coaching hubs in 30 cities across the country, announced by the FA Chairman's England Commission last month, have been largely well received by the football community but the first major funding pledge, which will be matched by the FA themselves, will go some way to footing the expected £230m bill.
Chancellor George Osborne announced that the treasury will contribute a further £8m to football facilities over five years - on top of the £10m per annum it currently invests in the FA and Premier League Facilities Fund (FAPLFF) - along with a further £2m annual investment in improved coaching.
Further funding is expected to come from the Premier League and the Football League, as well as local authorities involved in the new facility projects, which have kicked off with a pilot trial in Sheffield.
FA Chairman Greg Dyke said: "I am delighted that the Government has shown its support for the England Commission’s drive to significantly improve grassroots football facilities and coaching.
"The best quality coaches working on the best quality facilities will really help us to deliver a transformation in player and coach development across English football. This improvement is vital to the nation’s shared ambition of future England team success.
"Significantly improving our grassroots football infrastructure is vital. Everyone playing the game at every level deserves the best opportunity to reach their potential. Today’s announcement will take us a long way forward to achieving our goals.
The new government investment will help to build over 400 new first class artificial grass pitches (AGPs) - an increase of 50% to more than 1,000 - whilst urban areas will see numbers rise by 130% to over 500.
These new pitches will allow over 50% of all youth football matches to be played on the best quality AGPs. They will be backed up by the investment in coaching, which aims to support 25 new 'coach educators' to help triple the number of advanced youth coaches across the country, whilst a new bursary scheme will help more women and people from a BAME background qualify as coaches.
Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "Investing in building state-of-the-art 3G pitches up and down the country is a real boost to grassroots sport.
"These all-weather facilities will not only mean that people can play football all-year round but are great for talent development due to the true, flat playing surface. If we strengthen the game at the grassroots and increase the number of coaches, it will only help the England team in future World Cups and European Championships."
By doubling its investment, the Government has ensured its funding for grassroots football is back at the same level as in 2000, when the Football Foundation was established to help redistribute money from the Premier League and the FA, along with government funds, back into improving grassroots football facilities.
Since then, all three funding partners have gradually cut their funding from £20m to no more than £12m per annum. Whilst the grassroots game will welcome a return to the old levels of funding, many will argue the investment should have increased over the last decade, rather than been cut.
With facilities getting worse as professional clubs get richer and richer, the Premier League has faced calls to significantly increase its investment in the grassroots game.
Now it is hoped that Greg Dyke's radical new plans will encourage the Premier League clubs to dig deeper into its pockets, just as they did with the Chancellor.
"The Premier League has a longstanding commitment to investing in facilities for the grassroots game, using a significant amount of the income we earn from selling our broadcast rights," said Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore.
"Building on that commitment, we will work closely with the Government, the FA and our Clubs to make these new local partnerships a success. Good coaching on good pitches is the foundation of good football, whether it’s people playing for fun or talented youngsters developing their skills for the future and so the whole of football will benefit."
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