Grassroots Football to Benefit from £102m Fund Over Three Years

The Premier League, the Football Association and the government will on Tuesday unveil a £102m fund to invest in grassroots football facilities over the next three years.

But the guaranteed contribution of £12m a year from the Premier League is unlikely to be enough to quell criticism of its redistribution formula, given the huge hike in broadcasting income that will lead to a windfall of £5.5bn over the same three-year period.

In addition to the £12m a year promised by the Premier League, the FA will contribute the same amount and the government will invest £10m per year through Sport England, which is funded by Lottery and exchequer money.

The investment will be administered by the Football Foundation, which has been lauded for its work in deploying £412m of investment from the three funding partners and attracting match funding to take the total to almost £1bn since it was launched in 2000.

The body will now have a new name – the Premier League and FA Facilities Fund – to link it more overtly to the game’s authorities. The hope is that it will also be able to foster closer links with the community programmes of Premier League clubs.

When the Football Foundation was launched, each funding partner agreed to put in £20m a year. That original commitment wavered over time, with the FA in particular unable to maintain investment at the same level when it faced a series of financial crises precipitated by the construction of Wembley and the collapse of the pay-TV broadcaster Setanta.

The Premier League has been criticised for not diverting more of its broadcasting billions to grassroots facilities. But it argues it has maintained funding when others have not and must continue to invest the majority of its income in fostering a healthy product.

“Premier League clubs are committed to playing an active role as hubs of their communities, particularly in the area of sports participation, from the grassroots level through to their academies,” said the Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, who will launch the scheme at an event with the FA general secretary, Alex Horne, and the new sports minister, Helen Grant, at a facility in Waterloo on Wednesday.

“The Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund will help them to support a new generation of facilities across the country, particularly in the most deprived areas.

“Having been a Trustee of the Football Foundation since the very start, I have seen first-hand how these new sports facilities can help to regenerate communities and increase participation amongst those who play our national game. By committing £36m over the three years to developing more and better public sports sites, we hope to continue that regeneration.”

Getting more people playing football is crucial to the government’s hopes of delivering on its Olympic legacy promises to boost participation. But recent Sport England figures showed that numbers playing the game were falling.

Despite the Football Foundation’s investment in well-used artificial facilities, cuts to local council budgets have raised fears of a detrimental impact on playing fields and community sports facilities. Grant said the investment would boost provision in some of the most deprived areas of the country.

“This investment of £102m into facilities, delivered by the Football Foundation, will encourage more people to get into sport in some of the most deprived areas of the country,” she said. “Sport has such a power to change lives for the better and this will make such a positive contribution to many local communities.”

The provision of grassroots facilities is also likely to form a key plank of the FA’s review into the decline in the number of homegrown players in the top flight. The FA has promised to invest £200m in a new four-year strategy to improve facilities.

“The funding that the FA has invested through the Football Foundation has dramatically improved local football facilities up and down the country and is a key part of the FA’s four-year National Game Strategy, a £200m investment into the grassroots game,” said Horne.

“These enhanced facilities increase opportunities for young people to become involved in football, whether as players or coaches, and it is this work which feeds into helping to produce the next generation of English football talent.”

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