The lower reaches of the beautiful game are set to benefit from a record £260 million investment from The FA - a £60 million increase on the previous four-year funding. The cash boost is aimed at increasing youth participation, developing better English players and enhancing football training levels and the standards of facilities across the country.
English teams have disappointed at international competitions for some time now, and The FA hopes this cash injection will provide a boost for all levels of the sport - from teams on local parks through to the national team itself.
The FA's announcement today, with the launch of its National Game Strategy for Participation and Development, admitted that more had to be done to develop young footballers and give more young people an opportunity to play the sport.
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The FA's chief executive Martin Glenn said:
“There are challenges facing grassroots football both in terms of facilities and coaching. Today we have set out how we will tackle the challenges head-on."
The new strategy aims to impact on four key areas of grassroots football:
This will build on the ongoing increase in boys and girls participating in football, as well as the growth in disability football. It will also deliver more varied formats of the game to address the drop in traditional 11v11 weekend football among adult males.
Developing better players
The FA is pledging £4 million per year, as well as an annual £2 million investment from the government, towards grassroots coaching. There will now be a network of County Coaches who are tasked with improving and supporting coaching across grassroots football through club mentoring programmes.
The extension of coach bursaries is aimed at getting more women and people from diverse backgrounds into the profession as The FA launches a drive to get more top level grassroots coaches into the game.
Better training and facilities
The FA is committing £48 million to improving training and facilities, which will see it investing in 100 new turf pitches and improvements to a further 2,000 across the country as part of its Pitch Improvement Plan.
Further funds have been dedicated to building 30 new football hubs across key cities based on a pilot scheme already under way in Sheffield. The Government has committed o providing £8m per year over five years to support The FA’s contribution.
The FA is aiming to make football more representative of the communities it serves through inclusion initiatives. It is also rolling out technology to run the game more efficiently and create direct lines of communication with players across all grassroots leagues, with the aim of making football truly integrated.
There can be no argument that something has to be done to bolster the development of English players to help them reach the top of our game - as only 33% of players who played in the opening Premier League game of the season were English.
Whether this investment will have any impact on the number of English players competing regularly at the top level or improve the fortunes of England teams at the very highest level remains to be seen. But the FA's commitment to pouring more money into grassroots football is certainly an exciting move for the future of the English game.