English top flight clubs to contribute over £100m per season to grassroots football from 2016-17
The Premier League's investment in grassroots football is set to double from next season, as part of the government's new strategy for sport.
The agreement will see the Premier League double its investment in grassroots and community football over the coming three seasons - to more than £100m a year - to help improve facilites and boost participation, although campaigners believe the increase in funding is still not enough.
Details of the deal are yet to be finalised pending an Ofcom investigation into how the Premier League sells its domestic broadcasting rights, but sports minister Tracey Crouch - who last June said she was "appalled" at the Premier League's investment in the grassroots game - made it one of the headlines of the government's new sports strategy, announced last month.
The Premier League has come under increasing pressure to invest more in grassroots football since it secured a record-breaking £5.14bn domestic TV rights deal, which will kick in at the start of the 2016-17 season.
The country's top 20 clubs currently invest a combined £56m a year into grassroots football and a range of community projects - such as Premier League Kicks and their School Sport programme - so doubling that investment will mean annual contributions of a £112m or more from next season.
Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore said: "The Premier League already has the largest community sport programme of any comparable sports organisation in the world and we have now agreed with the government to at least double our funding over the next three seasons. The success of the Premier League creates a great opportunity to grow the game at all levels."
But with the sale of international TV rights expected to bring the Premier League's total revenue for the next three seasons to an eye-watering £8bn, many in the game believe that doubling investment in grassroots football still falls short of what is required.
The Save Grassroots Football campaign has led calls on the Premier League to invest more into grassroots football for the last three years and, despite last month's announcement, campaign founder Kenny Saunders wants to see the league do even more.
"Back in 1999 the Premier League agreed to contribute five per cent of TV revenue, which under the current deal is [expected to be] over £400 million," Saunders told Sky Sports News HQ. "I don't think we will get that into grassroots football, but we need £400m.
"The government did a survey regarding the facilities; it would cost £5 billion to improve it - that's the state grassroots football is in. You look at Jamie Vardy and Charlie Austin - we've got thousands of them in grassroots football. We need better more affordable facilities.
"It's not just the FA and Premier League, it's government as well. They are slashing council budgets in the next months - pitches will be sold off, sports clubs will go."
David Crausby MP, a loyal supporter of the Save Grassroots campaign, last week questioned the sports minister on the government's "vague plans" for a new deal with the Premier League on grassroots funding.
He welcomed her commitment to the Premier League doubling their investment - which equates to 6.5% of the new domestic TV deal - but questioned why the league's revenue from overseas rights are not being taken into account.
"This is certainly a step forward," responded Crausby on his blog. "It’s a better deal than the one agreed by the Government three years ago and shows the positive impact that the constant campaigning by everyone involved with the Save Grassroots Football campaign has had.
"However, I still see no justification for excluding the international TV rights from this arrangement. These are now multi-billion pound deals in their own right and a huge part of the Premier Leagues (sic) income. The deals keep on expanding, leaving an elite flooded with money while children are left with a water logged (sic) pitch.
"With this deal the Government are short changing children’s football by tens of millions of pounds every year."