New figures released by the Football Foundation show that last year more than 1m people played sport at community facilities, that were upgraded with investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund (PL/FA:FF), with a further 1.1m people attending one-off football tournaments.
Participation in football increased on average by 10% at grassroots facilities that had been awarded a grant from the PL/FA:FF within the last five years. Multi-sport participation grew by 12% at those same sites. As a result, 238,447 more grassroots footballers are using PL/FA:FF-funded facilities than in 2016, with an extra 66,684 women and girls also now playing regular sport there.
The participation increases outlined above are achieved through the creation of comprehensive Football Development Plans (FDP) at each facility whose capacity and quality is enhanced with PL/FA:FF investment.
The FDPs are produced by the Football Foundation, in partnership with the applicant and County FA. They set local, achievable, outcomes, such as the number of new grassroots teams to be created at the upgraded site. They also outline for whom they will cater, be it male, female, disability, youth or adult teams.
In addition to the participation increases achieved by the carefully targeted and delivered PL/FA:FF infrastructure investment, 17,659 people last season gained a coaching qualification and a further 3,259 qualified as referees at those facilities.
Additionally, over half of the all-weather pitches funded in the last three years are linked to professional football clubs’ community programmes. This means the majority of the new sites are also venues for club projects that use the power of sport to promote healthy lifestyles, social cohesion and educational attainment.
This commitment from the very top of football and government demonstrates how money is flowing down to the game’s grassroots. As a result, the Foundation and its Funding Partners are fulfilling its core mission to provide people, from all demographics, with an opportunity to play regular sport purely for the love of it.
These facilities are also having a much wider impact on society. Quality facilities not only attract new people, or all ages, but crucially keep them coming back because they enjoy the experience so much. This means that they are also enjoying regular exercise and all of the benefits that brings in supporting their physical and mental health, and developing crucial life skills.
Tracey Crouch MP, Minister for Sport, said: “These figures show the impact that the investment from the Premier League, The FA and Government are having on football’s grassroots. Good quality facilities help encourage regular participation in sport and all the benefits to a person’s life that brings, such as improved physical and mental health. These sites are community hubs bringing people together and are also being used to help develop the next generation of coaches.”
Richard Scudamore, Executive Chairman of the Premier League, said: “These figures are very encouraging and provide further evidence that the support of Premier League clubs in developing new community facilities is having a positive impact on sports participation.
“The artificial floodlit pitches and modern changing rooms built with investment from the Premier League & FA Facilities Fund are demonstrably leading to more people playing football and other sports. We will continue to focus on investing in and supporting these facilities, particularly in areas where they can be hubs of their communities and provide pitches that schools and local leagues can regularly use, and on which professional clubs can deliver their many community sport projects.”
Martin Glenn, Chief Executive of The FA, said: “The Foundation’s latest figures demonstrate that the work to improve the infrastructure of the country’s grassroots football facilities continues apace. This is benefitting huge numbers of footballers at the very lowest levels of the game – driving up participation rates in the process. The outlook for the foreseeable future is bright, with more new facilities in the pipeline for towns and cities across the country.”
Jennie Price, Chief Executive of Sport England, said: “By improving existing sites and building new ones, the Foundation is helping to provide the best possible experience for amateur footballers and those who play a range of other sports – that is why these results are so encouraging. Better quality, more welcoming grassroots facilities makes it easier for people to include sport in their lives and keep it there, which is why we are pleased to continue to support the Foundation.”
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “Thanks to the investment from our Funding Partners – the Premier League, The FA and the Government, through Sport England – more than 1.08m footballers played at facilities delivered by the Football Foundation last year.
“These facilities are being built across the country in the areas where the need is greatest, often within the most deprived communities. This means that more people can play the sports they enjoy and get fitter, mentally and physically, in the process.
“Nearly 18,000 coaching qualifications were achieved at our facilities last year, underlining them as more than places to play sport. They are hubs that help people with vocational support, work experience and other initiatives that foster greater community cohesion.”
• Read the Football Foundation’s 2017 Annual Review in full, here.