FA pitch in to improve playing surfaces

New £8m Pitch Improvement Programme to improve over 2,000 football pitches over four years

Playing football in the long grassThe Football Association has launched a new £8 million programme to improve grass football pitches across the country.

The four-year Pitch Improvement Programme (PIP) will deliver improvements to more than 2,000 pitches and provide support services to grassroots clubs, volunteers and groundsmen.

The programme, which the FA describes as a “central pillar” of their new National Game Strategy, can be accessed by clubs and other organisations responsible for the maintenance of the pitches, including local authorities.

83% of football pitches in England are publicly owned and, with local authority budgets being increasingly squeezed in recent years, many clubs have seen pitch maintenance decline as councils are forced to prioritise essential services.

This winter has seen the worst disruption to the grassroots football programme in recent memory, with over 90% of clubs suffering postponed fixtures and many not playing a game for two or even three months.

Last autumn, the FA announced plans to create 3G football hubs across 30 English cities by 2020 – the first of which is scheduled to open in Sheffield this summer – but they also acknowledge that facilities need improving across the country, not just in major cities.

Football pitch markingThe new PIP is designed to help address that issue, with the FA’s £8m four-year investment in addition to their £12m annual contribution to the Premier League and FA Facilities Fund, administered by the Football Foundation.

The PIP will provide a range of support services to grassroots clubs, volunteers and groundsmen, including on-site evaluations with practical advice and recommendations.

It will also include a range of measures to help develop the skills and knowledge of the volunteers and groundsmen, including seminars and workshops, with discounted product and materials available from two industry partners officially appointed to the scheme.

Kelly Simmons, the FA’s Director for Participation and Development, said: “Last winter we asked people from across grassroots football what they felt would make playing football better. Nearly 30,000 people gave us their view, yet among the vast majority the answer was remarkably similar – supporting clubs to improve their pitches.

“We have committed to investing a total of £260 million in addressing the problem of poor quality facilities and improving grassroots coaching by 2019. In addition to the Pitch Improvement Programme, we are now a heartbeat away from the start of our ground breaking football hubs project with the pilot initiative set to go live in Sheffield this summer.”

The official rollout of the PIP follows extensive piloting which has already seen one million pounds invested and over 800 visits to grassroots football pitches by trained experts.

Mark Pover, the FA’s National Facilities Manager said: “PIP has already proven to be a tremendous resource for many grassroots clubs and in addition, through the introduction of new technologies, the FA is able to develop local investment strategies and continue talking directly with clubs about the state of the facilities they use, providing dedicated programmes to help with improvements.

“The development of playing pitch strategies also gives us an early warning of pitch conditions and pitches under threat of development, strengthening our hand when it comes to challenging pitch closures and maintenance programmes.”

Clubs or league wanting to access the PIP are encouraged to contact their local county FA, whilst a new website – groundsmanship.co.uk – provides further details of how clubs can access help.

This article appeared in The Clubhouse – the monthly newsletter from Club Website. To get the best grassroots news, offers and competitions straight to your inbox every month, sign up today!

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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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12 Comments

  1. mark on March 10, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    nice to see sheffield benefits again while rotherham town just at side gets rock all we have no refs changing rooms shocking pitches

  2. Steve Cooper on March 10, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Nowhere near enough, needs at least a couple of zeros added to it…….. The hub idea is great if you will be near one but the majority of grass roots teams won’t be affected. The FA needs to start taking serious money from the Premier League teams to support us. £10 million a year from each Premier League team is a drop in the ocean for them but the £200 million per year could make a big difference. This could give us around 300 3G pitches per year…… Come on Mr Dyke grow some and help support us!

  3. Terry Upton on March 11, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    We already have at least 12 venues in south Gloucestershire that are under investigation to be handed to clubs due to the council wanting to get rid of.
    Understandable the local clubs don’t really now why this is happening
    .Where does a local club start to get any sort of funding for local football

  4. Peter Lodge on March 12, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    Another false dawn for the grass roots clubs. The councils will hand the pitches to facility companies to run who will charge through the roof for any new improved pitches to be played on. A pitch + ref+ Lino,s is the best part of £180 a game in London . Where’s the direct help to the grass roots clubs. Funding streams are non existent . Until the FA wakes up and realises our national game is dying from the bottom up and like any tree if you kill the roots the big tree will fall.

  5. David bowes on March 15, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    8 million every club in the premiership should be Made to pay that in and more they can afford it the money they are paying out for Shiite foreign players half of them who couldn’t give a toss about the club they are playing for a load of mercenaries and not bothered wether they play or not as long as they are getting paid .

  6. mick on March 18, 2016 at 8:11 am

    not seen one Astro being built in the west midlands. only school academy only. hire of 9v9 field £82 pound from goals. work it out £5 week subs by 13 kids £65 per week the hire of field is £82 per hire ????????????????????? what about end of season trophies and venues ????? loosing the will to carrying on with kids football . WHERES THE HELP

  7. Tracey Meyerhoff on March 20, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    The cost of hiring 3g for children football is crippling most teams. Money should be put into 3g for children’s teams to play free. Keeping kids of the street and fit. Look at all the money that could be saved from over weight kids and crime.

  8. Ian Eeles on March 23, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    My grassroots club has 4 pitches to maintain. Basic maintenence costs around £10,000 a season. With 250 members that’s £40 each. I’d love The FA to cough up for this so we can spend the money on things other than the ground, or even reduce fees!

  9. Mike Turner on March 24, 2016 at 12:44 am

    The FA loves a good press release and they cost next to nothing. Now all these millions: where are they and how do we access them? Not a word. I’ve had a look at the web site mentioned. Nothing about grant aid on it. “Clubs are encouraged to contact their local county FA,” it says in the text above this. If all county FA’s are like the FA of Wales good luck with that one.
    In short, I’ll believe it when I see it.

  10. Steve Smith on March 24, 2016 at 7:38 am

    3 g pitches alone are not the answer particularly when the cost to hire is so extortionate that it puts people off playing rather than encouraging them.
    As with other pits of money this seems to require clubs to guess at exactly how they are to access the funds. Right now our club can’t even get a response from the FA who in my opinion are a joke and not interested in our national sport at grass roots level

  11. D BERRY on April 12, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    THE ONLY WAY FORWARD is for smaller clubs to amalgamate , i know this will not be popular as it will be done with a local team , who are normally your rivals but this will in time mean more people watching your games so more mony for e club

  12. James hammill on April 16, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    £8m? That will pay for improvements on about 20 grass root pitches with the years of neglect from local councils!
    How about ring fencing 10% of the new tv deal revenue for grass roots improvements?

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