Pitches and coaching biggest grassroots concerns – FA survey

Familiar problems highlighted in FA’s largest ever grassroots football survey, as governing body targets £260m four-year investment to address issues curbing development of the national game

Kick off

The quality and availability of pitches is the still the biggest problem facing the grassroots football community, according to the results of the FA’s largest survey into the national game.

A total of 28,757 players, coaches, referees, staff and volunteers polled in October also raised concerns over the standard of grassroots coaching, particularly among older players.

But it was the age-old grassroots problem of facilities – which Club Website has been highlighting since 2009 – that remains the biggest cause for concern, with the quality of pitches having a direct effect on how much football people play.

Facility failings

Players with access to better quality pitches were found to play a third more than the average – and would like to play 25% more often than they currently do – while those playing on poorly-maintained pitches currently play 21 per cent less than average, and are likely to reduce the amount they play next season.

The FA says a “significant slice” of the £260 million allocated to grassroots football over the next four years has been allocated directly to improving facilities, with investment set aside to bring the number of 3G pitches more in line with some of our European counterparts.

Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director for participation and development, said: “These results highlight the areas where our £260m investment can make a real difference. Addressing the problem of poor quality facilities is one of the areas where we have ear-marked for significant additional investment.

Parklife Sheffield“We are now a heartbeat away from the start of Parklife, we are increasing the number of grass and artificial turf pitches and will continue to support and improve the existing infrastructure.”

The FA’s new £230m Parklife project – which will see football hubs built in 30 cities across England by 2020 – will open its first centre in Sheffield in April as part of a pilot scheme.

The FA hopes that their new National Game Strategy will break the dependency on under-funded local authority football pitches, which currently represent 83% of pitches in England.

Many grassroots teams have suffered poorly maintained pitches for many years, but government austerity measures mean local authority budgets will only be squeezed further in the months and years ahead, directing funds away from non-mandatory services such as pitch maintenance.

Coaching concerns

The FA survey found players aged 10-15 were happiest with the standard of coaching they received – with 61% satisfied – although satisfaction significantly reduced amongst older children and adults.

Less than half (48%) of those aged 13-15 were satisfied with their coaching, compared to less than a third (33%) of 16- to 19-year-olds and less than one in five (20%) of those aged 20 or older.

Poor coaching was identified as having a negative effect on the appetite of players to play regularly, whilst only one in five coaches polled felt they were being supported in their development.

The survey also revealed concerns over the cost of coaching, although those who had completed qualifications felt they offered greater value for money. In the last year, the average Level One course cost £90 and Level Two cost £208 – both of which equate to around £5 per hour, say the FA.

Coaching - Cheddar Under-15s

The FA will invest £4m per year in grassroots coaching over the next four years – including £2m per year from the government – as they roll out their new regional coaching structure, with a network of county coaches employed to improve and support grassroots coaching across the country through club mentoring programmes.

An extension of coaching bursaries is designed to get more women and people from diverse backgrounds into the profession, while the FA say there will also be a drive to get more top level grassroots coaches into the game.

Les Howie, head of grassroots coaching at the FA, said: “We are overhauling the way we approach coaching and, thanks to support from the Government, we are in a position to invest further in making coaching opportunities affordable and accessible to more people.”

Women’s game among the better news

There was better news for the FA when it came to women’s and girls’ football, which the governing body believe is “starting to set the grassroots standard”.

The female game, which has seen participation numbers increase in recent years,  saw higher approval ratings among players about pitch availability and quality, changing facilities, refereeing and coaching standards.

Despite concerns about aspects of the game, more than three quarters (76%) of volunteers plan to maintain or increase their involvement next season, while more than half (52%) hold the view that football is the most value-for-money sport to take part in, ahead of cycling (36%) and running (32%).

FA Chief Executive Martin Glenn said: “I want to thank the near 30,000 supporters of grassroots football who have taken the time to respond to the survey – the largest ever undertaken by the FA.

“The scale of the response demonstrates the level of commitment that exists to improve the grassroots game and reminds us – if we ever need it – who we are representing and what we are striving to achieve. There are lots of positives, we are listening and ready to act where needed.”

Have YOUR say on the FA survey results. What do you think of the key issues to come out of the FA survey? Do you think the FA is doing enough to tackle the issues highlighted, particularly those involving facilities and coaching? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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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. d berry on December 11, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    when the average price for 1 game on 3g is around £100 , then this is out of the scope of most teams in a league , we our selves have 7 home league games , plus 2 cup games , plus more if qualify to next round of cup , so we would be looking at £1200 for the use of 3g pitch in our area , they even have the cheek to charge for the use of changing rooms as extra , when we all know that you cannot play a league/cup game without them then take in to account the average of around £30 per home game for a ref , so that would be another £400 or so, , WFA needs to make sure that 3g pitches are available in more areas , you have the money to spend on pitches , but dont spend it on teams that are established like port talbot and large welsh clubs , help the smaller clubs to progress , the larger clubs mostly can afford it , but are waiting for massive subsidies , rather than paying for it them selves .

  2. Neil crook on December 11, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    Coaching advancement for grass roots coaches is a joke. I recently walked into the FA offices at leyland to ask about further courses as the answers on line appeared limited. I waited 15 minutes for a Portuguese girl to hand me two flyers with dates on (Monday to Friday) or several sundays that spanned half of 2016 – “fill these in if you want to attend”… (Encouraging)!
    How do they expect willing coaches who are working full time to attend these courses.
    To entice future coaches more Saturday courses need to be provided …
    I don’t even want to start on facilities I have not got enough room …

  3. Mark Lipton on December 12, 2015 at 9:01 am

    The money would be better spent providing 3/4G pitches at all secondary schools.this would allow greater access to clubs in all areas(not just in cities). Football would be accessible to more of the grass roots over a longer period,also helping our schools.

  4. mick on December 12, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    to many fat cat .also with the governing body taken to much cash out and filling there pockets .like the people of me up at 8.00 on sat morning then the same on Sunday. we here the same old story from the fa saying we are going to do this and we are going to do that, I wish someone would change the record, and know today game cancelled to water logged pitch .strange story when it comes to fines when they want the money quick ???????

  5. P hill on December 17, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    For me the reasons adult football 11 a side teams are down are various. Affiliation fees before you start including insurance approximately 300 cost of pitch can be anything from 60 to 100 then referees fees kits balls first aid. We are a new team this year and financially it’s tough and it also prohibits anyone who is unemployed because of finance. Then the pitches are over used and we do not have equipment to maintain the pitches. There are enough volunteers to roll pitches verti drain them grass cut but we cannot afford the heavy duty equipment. A great way for the fa to help is to loan equipment to football pitches where there is no equipment, you would get less postponements and less injuries.

  6. A. Dixon on December 17, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    As pointed out in an earlier comment the cost to run a football club is very high.
    My local village club runs two teams and the cost is over £4000 for the season of which we manage comfortably, but to improve the pitch and dressing rooms, we have to find at least £30,000 so as to get a grant from the various bodies. The club unless they find a wealthy backer, will be forever in lower leagues, bringing on good young players only for them to leave for better facilities. The club has produced a few who went on to pro clubs but no financial reward was gained, think that say’s it all.

  7. m taylor on January 6, 2016 at 11:27 am

    All I can say is I can guarantee the pitches wont get improved in Tameside, we never get anything, never will, we have a total of 12 changing rooms at various grounds all around the area, if it weren’t for 2 lads having merc sprinter van, wed have to get changed at pitch side which is embarrassing considering English football is the 2nd riches in the world. Too many fat cats dont know about the real world and this is just another gimmick for um to seem interested when really they don’t give a flying f##k, they just want bigger pockets.. #ashamedofthefa

  8. A Drake on January 6, 2016 at 11:31 am

    This has been an age long dilemma with grass roots football. Issue is a lot of local teams run from pubs etc and can only afford parks/council pitches these are not maintained upto highest standard. So when winter comes games get called off or pitches played on when it shouldn’t. Because of this Leagues are genuinely not able to put decent number of teams in divisions so if we have decent run of weather upto Christmas some teams have a couple of games in new year. I know a team last season played last game 1st week in February. How’s this good to keep people’s interest up. We would be better setting up bigger leagues of 20 teams and starting league mid Feb – November over course of summer teams can play midweek. Competive big leagues will draw more interest. I love football and know it’s an English tradition to play over winter but unless teams can afford maintained pitches which can cost between £1-£4K a year that have grounds men. Leagues adults and kids will suffer. I watched a kids game last season it was around freezing and hailing on these 7/8 year olds. The parents all wrapped up in ski gear was cold never mind all the kids that was interested in playing at this point was trying to keep warm. After game I heard at least 3 kids say they didn’t want to play again. This was one game if that was same on that day across 10 games that’s 30 players quit at 7/8 year old that’s 2 adult teams of future. Let’s stop be prehistoric and get best from grass roots and young players. 3G pitches aren’t future its miss spent money. That can be spent putting volunteers through coaching badges.

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