It is clear grassroots football in this country is in need of greater investment. The Save Grassroots Football campaign is currently pressuring the government to force Premier League clubs to reinvest just a small percentage of their huge revenues into the grassroots game – but that’s not to say there isn’t some good work already going on. The FA’s Parklife Project is a terrific scheme currently in the process of building 150 multi-purpose football facilities in 30 towns and cities across the UK by 2020.
REPRESENTING THE START OF A MAJOR OVERHAUL OF GRASSROOTS FOOTBALL IN THIS COUNTRY
Working alongside the Premier League and the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, the FA’s £200m investment will create footballing hubs for the community that provide top class facilities for local kids – and it is hoped that this is just the start of a revolution in grassroots football, and poor pitches, inadequate changing facilities and the frequent battles against the elements every winter will be a thing of the past for everyone who uses the facilities.
England manager Gareth Southgate hopes the scheme will soon reap rewards for the sport on a national level, but it goes beyond merely producing elite players.
When talking about player development you’re always thinking about short, medium and long-term strategies. It can’t always be about what’s right for the next 12 months. We have to invest in young people in this country. The benefit for these sites might not be seen for a decade but we will benefit for decades. The investment isn’t always about producing that elite player. It’s for kids and communities. I know grassroots clubs, football or other sports, are a massive part of the local community and it gives kids somewhere to go where they feel safe, where they get a strong positive influence around them and there’s a huge amount of social responsibility. England Manager, Gareth Southgate
The programme will provide significant new investment into accessible local facilities situated in the heart of communities across the country. Back in 2014 there were just under 700 full-size 3G pitches in this country, compared to almost 4000 in Germany, and the Parklife Project will cut that deficit. The FA also seeks to ensure players will have access to qualified coaches, alongside supporting the recruitment and development of referees.
HUBS UP AND RUNNING IN SHEFFIELD WITH MORE TO COME
The scheme’s inaugural site was built in Sheffield in 2016 with many more to come, starting with Liverpool and Eastleigh and Southampton. Sheffield’s hub includes two full sized, state-of-the-art 3G pitches, also marked with four smaller, training style pitches, several spacious dressing rooms complete with tactics board, and a conference room for delivering coaching talks and other footballing qualifications such as refereeing.
This represents just the start of a major overhaul of grassroots football in this country. This radical vision emerged from a 2014 FA Commission that reported on how to strengthen the national game from top to bottom, and included other proposals including summer leagues for children.
It’s about time we started delivering top class sporting facilities not just for the elite but for the grassroots and local communities, and the Parklife Project is a very welcome step in the right direction.
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