FA eyes Liverpool and London as it ramps up grassroots facilities programme

The Football Association (FA) is awaiting the green light to build grassroots football hubs in Liverpool and West London after establishing facilities in Sheffield.

New centres have launched in the South Yorkshire city as part of a pilot for the Parklife Football Hub Programme, which is being funded by the FA, Sheffield District Council and Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

St George’s Park Sheffield Graves will open its doors this week, with a second Sheffield centre in Thorncliffe opening in a month’s time.

The programme is now expected to be pushed out nationwide, with the funding partners – and the Premier League – ploughing in £200m (US$261.9m, €234.4m) to replicate the model in other cities.

Planning applications are now being considered for proposed sites in Liverpool and London.

The move is part of the governing body’s drive to increase the amount of quality facilities for grassroots football in inner cities, and subsequently boost the number of people playing the sport.

Artificial pitches will offer double the amount of playing time that can be accommodated on natural pitches. They are also unlikely to become susceptible to being frozen or waterlogged.

The facilities in Sheffield will host league matches for up to five resident clubs. Once the centres are fully-operational they will be open to the wider public.

Designed to be self-sustaining, the centres will be operated via a charitable ownership model that sees sites leased to the Sheffield Football Trust, “tackling the over-reliance on subsidy from local authorities”.

“Make no mistake, these hubs are the start of something big,” said FA chief executive Martin Glenn.

“The Sheffield centres mark the beginning of the end of a story all-too-familiar to the grassroots footballer of poor pitches, woefully inadequate changing facilities and a battle against the elements to get fixtures completed each winter,” he added.

Sport minister Tracey Crouch said: “Better football facilities are crucial to help strengthen the sport at the grassroots and that is exactly why the government is backing this project with funding.”

First published on www.sportsmanagement.co.uk, written by Matthew Campelli, 30 Aug 2016