New sports minister Helen Grant MP believes the announcement of the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund will prove to be an inspiration for the next generation of young footballers.
The new scheme, funded by the Premier League, The FA and the Government via Sport England and delivered by the Football Foundation, will invest Ã‚Â£102m over three years into building and refurbishing local football facilities with the aim of giving people more opportunities to play football.
And Grant, who herself played four sports at county level, believes the investment will play a significant role in increasing participation rates in sport.
“It is important to focus on areas of deprivation as those areas are where the provision of these types of facilities is worst and where the need is greatest”
“Sport has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said at the launch of the new Fund in Southwark on Wednesday. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It gave me self-confidence, it gave me self-esteem and it taught me many important life skills. Why this launch and this investment is important is that I know it will give other children the same chance that I had to develop and grow through sport.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a fantastic thing to be able to talk knowing the impact it will have for communities up and down the country and the impact it will have for children. They are really going to have the chance to play on amazing facilities, which will encourage many children to stick with sport because they will experience the very best, and that’s marvellous.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Fund will begin to invest from January next year and will concentrate on improving facilities in deprived urban areas, where there is a scarcity of top-quality artificial grass pitches, which will have floodlights to extend use into the late evening, especially during the winter months.
“It is important to focus on areas of deprivation as those areas are where the provision of these types of facilities is worst and where the need is greatest,” said Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore. “We have agreed with our partners that a disproportionate amount of this money will be spent in these areas.
“This is a very important renewal of what we have been doing historically for some time, but not in this targeted format. It is about facilities and it is about places where particularly young people can play. If we are going to produce more and better players for England and the Premier League, it starts with things like facilities.
“High quality facilities, like these at the London Nautical School, are essential if we are to get more people playing sport”
“The Premier League, the FA and the Government have all joined together and have not just decided to put in this amount of money but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve also decided on a common strategy on what the moneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be spent on. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been able to reconcile all our objectives and so the objectives of increased participation, focus on youth, focus on areas of high deprivation and links to professional football clubs where possible, is a very integrated plan and it ticks all our boxes for each organisation.”
The announcement of the new fund was made at the London Nautical School, with Year 11 pupils taking part in a PE lesson on one of two 3G pitches, funded by the Football Foundation, which is used not just by the school but by the local community in the evenings and at weekends.
“Once you provide the facility, once you provide the coaching, once you provide the actual infrastructure, it can happen,Ã¢â‚¬Â added Scudamore. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You can see the enjoyment and then hopefully when they enjoy themselves, they tell their friends and their friends come along and play in ever-increasing numbers and who knows from this group maybe one day a real gem comes through and makes it all the way to the very top.”
That view was echoed by The FA General Secretary Alex Horne, who said: “The important thing is that we are investing in a pyramid so by investing in grassroots facilities we are enabling a generation of kids to play more football.
“Only by doing that can we get more and better young players coming through the system into the academies. We all recognise one of the biggest drivers to participation in the game is a successful England team along with a successful Premier League and I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really important that we come together and make a joint-investment in a fund like this.”
And for Sport England Property Director, Charles Johnston, the PE lesson on the pitch is the perfect example of what the Facilities Fund will deliver. “Being here and seeing both students and people for the local community playing alongside each other on the two 3G five-a-side pitches is exactly why weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re working in partnership with the Premier League and the FA,” he said. “High quality facilities, like these at the London Nautical School, are essential if we are to get more people playing sport.”
“This is a significant investment”
The Football Foundation, which was formed by the Premier League, The FA and the Government, has already awarded Ã‚Â£412m worth of grants and secured more than Ã‚Â£565m of additional partnership funding since its formation in 2000. Football Foundation Chief Executive Paul Thorogood says this new fund will play a key role in helping the organisation continue its work.
“This is a significant investment,” he said. “Nearly Ã‚Â£1bn over the last 13 years has gone into facilities like the one here at the London Nautical School. Something like this in a community provides the capacity for people to provide a better experience of playing football and to provide better coaching you need facilities like this. There is so much more to do but this is a big start and the fact that the three partners are re-investing is very, very important for local communities.”
The new fund was also welcomed by television and radio presenter Georgie Bingham, who hosted the launch in her role as a Football Foundation ambassador.
“This is not a PR exercise,” she said. “This is a huge amount of money. For the Premier League, the FA and the Government to come together and to put it all in the Football Foundation’s hands in terms of where it goes is a really sensible idea and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s important that the public see that funds are being put in and delivering facilities like the one at this school.
“There is never going to be a point in Great Britain where we think, ‘the Football Foundation has done its job, there are enough pitches here’. There will never be enough; the demand will always be there so that’s why it is so crucial.”