Today it has been reported that Sport England have cut funding for football by £1.6m, the cut coming as a result of decreasing participation at grassroots level of the sport.
Taking £1.6m away is a real sign the FA needs to do something different and I think they will take it seriously. – Jennie Price, Sport England Chief Executive.
Quotes attributed to Sport England chief executive Jennie Price would appear to suggest the FA should be viewing the move as a warning shot. When viewed in the grand scheme of things this is not really a huge amount of money, especially when taking in consideration it has been cut from a budget of £30m.
The cut aside, an interesting question you might ask is, where is the £30m the FA have been receiving been spent? It is common knowledge, that the vast majority of grassroots pitches in England are more like swamps than anything fit to host a game of football. I’ve first hand experience myself of visiting places where I’d rather get changed in the car park than use the disdain facilities on offer. With regards to where these millions of pounds have been going I don’t know, but with such atrocious conditions its no wonder grass roots participation is falling. The FA has blamed a combination of severe weather, increased pitch hire costs and reduced maintenance spend as the reasons behind a failure to provide good quality playing surfaces and falling participation rates.
For sure, the move throws up and interesting debate. Should funding be cut when you are trying to increase participation? Some might criticise Sport England for coming at the issue from the wrong angle, arguing that funds should be increased if participation is falling. Alternatively, some might say its only £1.6m, is it really going to make much difference? Either way one thing is obvious, the lack of money being filtered down from the Premier League at the top of the game is nothing short of disgraceful. Despite the league being flush with cash, grass roots football receives barely a drip of cash from the Premier League whilst players, parents and local businesses chip in to keep teams going with subsidies and sponsorships. I for one do not agree with Sport England’s decision to cut funds, but I have no doubts about the message they are trying to send out. That message is that Football really needs to take a look in the mirror and help itself a lot more. Whether the message will hit home and have the desired effect remains to be seen.
At the end of the day, the buck stops with the FA and the Premier League… after all, they’re only being asked to invest in their own futures.