Football Foundation Interim Chief Executive, Robert Sullivan, shares his thoughts on the publication of the first ever nationwide local football facilities plans.
Lat week, for the first time, English football announced a collective plan for its investment into grassroots facilities. After two years of hard work, every Local Authority has an agreed list of specific pitches and clubhouses to build or improve in their area. These Local Football Facility Plans are the roadmap to a transformation in how every player enjoys our national game.
In developing the Plans we spoke to over 2,000 local clubs, more than 300 local authorities and a range of other stakeholders to identify an excellent pipeline of projects. Each Plan is a short, well-defined document that captures current football facilities and identifies investment priorities where the needs are greatest. I encourage you to take a look at the plan for your local area by clicking here.
Across the country we have identified over 5000 individual projects - from improving grass-pitches, new artificial pitches, redeveloping club houses, and building new small sided multi-use games areas.
Local Football Facility Plans - Downhill Hub
The challenge is significant; and of course we need great playing facilities now more than ever.
Covid-19 is the biggest public health challenge we have faced in generations, but at the Football Foundation, we believe passionately in the power of playing football to transform lives by improving physical and mental health, empowering young people and strengthening communities. Delivering these plans across England will be a vital cog in how we bounce back as a fit and healthy nation.
But having the plan, the roadmap, is only the beginning.
Our next challenge is to work together - as a team at the local and national level - to secure the necessary funding and deliver these projects.
This will not be easy. We understand the huge pressure local authorities are under right now. They are making difficult financial decisions about how to meet the short term needs created by Covid-19, whilst still delivering against longer term strategies. We believe investing in local community football facilities can help by delivering valuable health, social and economic outcomes; and we will work hard to make that case.
The encouraging news is that increasingly, local authorities are looking to integrate physical activity into more proactive public health policies. Local health and wellbeing strategies across England consistently highlight physical inactivity as a major challenge. Investing in local football facilities and increasing participation is an effective way to tackle this.
We see it every day. Victoria French, Assistant Director for Culture and Events at Sunderland City Council, explained that the Council had seen huge increases in football participation at their new hub sites in the city. Moreover, the combination of football facilities with a rugby pitch, gym and community and education facilities has brought people together from across the local community.
But it's not just the personal health and community benefits. We know that investing in great facilities has a real hard economic benefit too. Research by CEBR shows that for every £1million of capital we invest in community facilities, £5.5 million of output is supported in the wider economy.
At the national level, through the Football Foundation, the Premier League, The FA and Government have committed funds to deliver our ambitious plans and we are ready to work with local authorities and local communities, as a team, to make them a reality.
England Manager Gareth Southgate provided a special message of support for yesterday's webinar and I echo his closing words:
"What we've now got to do is work together to provide these facilities that have never been more important. I'm looking forward to playing my part. I hope that you will as well."
Yesterday was a huge vital step forward. We have the plans.
We will succeed in our ambition, to transform community facilities across England.
By working as a team we will unleash the power of the pitch.